Stroke is the collective name for blood clots in the brain and brain hemorrhage. It is a serious condition and the affected person needs urgent care.
The main cause of stroke is a blood clot in the brain, called a brain infarction. The somewhat less common cause that affects about 20% of stroke sufferers is that a vessel in the brain or on the brain surface has broken. This is called a brain hemorrhage. Cerebral infarction and cerebral hemorrhage are often the results of high blood pressure or that fat have built up in blood vessels, so-called arteriosclerosis.
For whatever reason, stroke means that the brain gets too little blood, leading to oxygen deficiency. When the brain does not get enough blood, brain cells die in the affected area. The body cannot produce new cells to replace the dead ones. It is important to get care quickly in order to reduce the risk of permanent disability.
TIA, a transient ischemic attack, means that the symptoms of a stroke disappear within a day. It can be seen as a warning sign of stroke.
There is an increased risk of stroke if you, for example:
- drink a lot of alcohol
- have diabetes, type 2
- have a heart disease, atrial fibrillation
- have stroke or TIA before
- have high blood pressure
- a lot of stress
The symptoms of stroke will depend on where the blood clot or bleeding occurred in the brain. Common symptoms are:
- numbness or weakness in the arm, face, and leg, especially on one side of the body
- trouble speaking or understanding speech
- slurring speech
- vision problems, such as trouble seeing in one or both eyes with vision blackened or blurred, or double vision
- trouble walking
- loss of balance or coordination
- severe, sudden headache with an unknown cause
Prevention and protection
In cases of stroke, emergency care is needed. But you can prevent stroke by, for example:
- Quit smoking. If you smoke, quitting now will lower your risk of stroke.
- Consume alcohol in moderation. If you drink excessively, try to reduce your intake. Alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure.
- Keep weight down. Keep your weight at a healthy level. Being obese or overweight increases your stroke risk. To help manage your weight:
- Have a diet that’s full of fruits and vegetables.
- Eat food low in cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats.
- Stay physically active. This will help you maintain a healthy weight and help reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Get checkups. Stay on top of your health. This means getting regular checkups and staying in communication with your doctor. Be sure to take the following steps to manage your health:
- Get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked.
- Talk to your doctor about modifying your lifestyle.
- Discuss your medication options with your doctor.
- Address any heart problems you may have.
- If you have diabetes, take steps to manage it.
It is important to get care as soon as possible. The earlier stroke is treated with blood clot-dissolving agents, the less risk of permanent damage to the brain.
Treatment for stroke depends on the type of stroke:
Ischemic stroke and TIA:
- Antiplatelet and anticoagulants: Over-the-counter aspirin is often a first line of defense against stroke damage. Anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs should be taken within 24 to 48 hours after stroke symptoms begin.
- Clot-breaking drugs: Thrombolytic drugs can break up blood clots in your brain’s arteries, which still stop the stroke and reduce damage to the brain.
- Mechanical thrombectomy: During this procedure, the doctor inserts a catheter into a large blood vessel inside your head. They then use a device to pull the clot out of the vessel. This surgery is most successful if it’s performed 6 to 24 hours after the stroke begins.
- Stents: If your doctor finds where artery walls have weakened, they may perform a procedure to inflate the narrowed artery and support the walls of the artery with a stent.
- Surgery: In the rare instances that other treatments don’t work, your doctor may perform surgery to remove a blood clot and plaques from your arteries. This may be done with a catheter, or if the clot is especially large, your doctor may open an artery to remove the blockage.
- Medications: Unlike with an ischemic stroke, if you’re having a hemorrhagic stroke, the treatment goal is to make your blood clot. Therefore, you may be given medication to counteract any blood thinners you take. You may also be prescribed drugs that can reduce blood pressure, lower the pressure in your brain, prevent seizures, and prevent blood vessel constriction.
- Coiling: During this procedure, your doctor guides a long tube to the area of hemorrhage or weakened blood vessel. They then install a coil-like device in the area where the artery wall is weak. This blocks blood flow to the area, reducing bleeding.
- Clamping: During imaging tests, your doctor may discover an aneurysm that hasn’t started bleeding yet or has stopped. To prevent additional bleeding, a surgeon may place a tiny clamp at the base of the aneurysm. This cuts off blood supply and prevents a possible broken blood vessel or new bleeding.
- Surgery: If your doctor sees that an aneurysm has burst, they may do surgery to clip the aneurysm and prevent additional bleeding. Likewise, a craniotomy may be needed to relieve the pressure on the brain after a large stroke.
When to consult a doctor
Seek urgent help if you experience impaired sensation, inability to move a part of the body, if you have severe headaches or vision and speech problems.
How APPOTEK can help
APPOTEK cannot help with stroke. Seek emergency care.