Stroke "Act Quickly"

About Stroke - What is Stroke?

Stroke occurs in all age groups, in both sexes, and in all races in every country. It can even occur before birth, when the fetus is still in the womb.

Learning about stroke can help you act in time to save a relative, neighbor, or friend. And making changes in your lifestyle can help you prevent stroke.

A stroke is serious, just like a heart attack. A stroke is sometimes called a "brain attack." Most often, stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain stops because it is blocked by a clot. When this happens, the brain cells in the immediate area begin to die.

Some brain cells die because they stop getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function. Other brain cells die because they are damaged by sudden bleeding into or around the brain. The brain cells that don't die immediately remain at risk for death. These cells can linger in a compromised or weakened state for several hours. With timely treatment, these cells can be saved.

New treatments are available that greatly reduce the damage caused by a stroke. But you need to arrive at the hospital as soon as possible after symptoms start to prevent disability. Knowing stroke symptoms, calling 911 immediately, and getting to a hospital as quickly as possible are critical.

There are two kinds of stroke. The most common kind of stroke is called ischemic stroke. It accounts for approximately 80 percent of all strokes. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain.

Blockages that cause ischemic strokes stem from three conditions:
the formation of a clot within a blood vessel of the brain or neck, called thrombosis

the movement of a clot from another part of the body, such as from the heart to the neck or brain, called an embolism

a severe narrowing of an artery in or leading to the brain, called stenosis

The other kind of stroke is called hemorrhagic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain.

One common cause of a hemorrhagic stroke is a bleeding aneurysm. An aneurysm is a weak or thin spot on an artery wall. Over time, these weak spots stretch or balloon out due to high blood pressure. The thin walls of these ballooning aneurysms can rupture and spill blood into the space surrounding brain cells.

Artery walls can also break open because they become encrusted, or covered with fatty deposits called plaque, eventually lose their elasticity and become brittle, thin, and prone to cracking. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, increases the risk that a brittle artery wall will give way and release blood into the surrounding brain tissue.

About Stroke - Effects of a Stroke

Stroke damage in the brain can affect the entire body -- resulting in mild to severe disabilities. These include paralysis, problems with thinking, trouble speaking, and emotional problems.

A common disability that results from stroke is complete paralysis on one side of the body, called hemiplegia. A related disability that is not as debilitating as paralysis is one-sided weakness, or hemiparesis. The paralysis or weakness may affect only the face, an arm, or a leg, or it may affect one entire side of the body and face.

A stroke patient may have problems with the simplest of daily activities, such as walking, dressing, eating, and using the bathroom. Movement problems can result from damage to the part of the brain that controls balance and coordination. Some stroke patients also have trouble swallowing, called dysphagia.

Stroke may cause problems with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory.

In some cases of stroke, the patient suffers a neglect syndrome. The neglect syndrome means that the stroke patient has no knowledge of one side of his or her body, or one side of the visual field, and is unaware of the problem. A stroke patient may be unaware of his or her surroundings, or may be unaware of the mental problems that resulted from the stroke.

Stroke victims often have a problem forming or understanding speech. This problem is called aphasia. Aphasia usually occurs along with similar problems in reading and writing. In most people, language problems result from damage to the left hemisphere of the brain.

Slurred speech due to weakness or incoordination of the muscles involved in speaking is called dysarthria, and is not a problem with language. Because it can result from any weakness or incoordination of the speech muscles, dysarthria can arise from damage to either side of the brain.

A stroke can also lead to emotional problems. Stroke patients may have difficulty controlling their emotions or may express inappropriate emotions in certain situations. One common disability that occurs with many stroke patients is depression.

Post-stroke depression may be more than a general sadness resulting from the stroke incident. It is a serious behavioral problem that can hamper recovery and rehabilitation and may even lead to suicide. Post-stroke depression is treated as any depression is treated, with antidepressant medications and therapy.

Stroke patients may experience pain, uncomfortable numbness, or strange sensations after a stroke. These sensations may be due to many factors, including damage to the sensory regions of the brain, stiff joints, or a disabled limb.

An uncommon type of pain resulting from stroke is called central stroke pain or central pain syndrome or CPS. CPS results from damage to an area called the thalamus. The pain is a mixture of sensations, including heat and cold, burning, tingling, numbness, and sharp stabbing and underlying aching pain.

The pain is often worse in the hands and feet and is made worse by movement and temperature changes, especially cold temperatures. Unfortunately, since most pain medications provide little relief from these sensations, very few treatments or therapies exist to combat CPS.

The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

Copyright Information: Public domain information with acknowledgement given to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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