What Actually is a Stroke?

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You will often hear of people suffering a stroke and whilst we have a general idea what this is there is a lot of confusion. A stroke happens when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted in some way. How a stroke will affect the brain will depend on which part of the brain has suffered the damage and to what extent. For example, a brain stem stroke will affect heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure, speech, hearing, eye movements and swallowing. Here is a brief outline of the three main types of stroke.

Mini Stroke

A mini stroke is generally considered to be a warning that something is amiss with your health. It’s full title is Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA. If the blood flow to your brain is temporarily interrupted for whatever reason you will be classed as having a TIA. A blood clot on the move is a common reason for a ministroke and one of the most serious as the clot needs to be located and treated before it moves on and causes more serious damage elsewhere in the damage. Other causes of a transient ischemic attack include high blood pressure, diabetes and hardened or blocked arteries.

Ischemic Stroke

By far the most common type of stroke, ischemic strokes are caused by blood clots which stops the blood flow reaching our brain. Blood clots can be caused by many things such as atherosclerosis. This is when fatty deposits have built up inside the blood vessels. Bits of these fatty deposits break off and block the blood flow. This is similar to having a heart attack when a blood clot stops the blood reaching a part of your heart. Ischemic strokes can also be embolic, which means that the blood clot has travelled from another part of the body up to the brain. Around 15% of embolic strokes occur due to the condition known as atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat. Thrombotic strokes are a form of ischemic where the clot forms in one of the brain’s blood vessels. Another possible cause of a blood clot is an undetected cancer as this disease makes the blood sticky. All blood clots that cause an ischemic stroke need treatment as they will not disappear by themselves.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

The strokes which result in the highest amount of fatalities is the hemorrhagic stroke. These occur when blood vessels in the brain break or rupture and blood spills into surrounding tissue. Hemorrhagic strokes can be broken down into 3 main types;

Aneurysm – when a section of a weakened blood vessel balloons outwards and is liable to rupture

Arteriovenous Malformation – Abnormalities in the formation of the blood vessels

Very High Blood Pressure – Causes weakening in the smallest of the brains blood vessels resulting in bleeding within the brain.

Identifying a Stroke

The quicker a stroke is diagnosed and treated the better chance the patient has of making a full recovery.The FAST method is recommended to help identify a possible stroke.

FACE- Is the mouth dropping at one side?

ARMS – Can both arms be raised or does one droop down?

SPEECH – Can the patient speak properly or is their speech slurred?

TIME – If any of these symptoms are evident call 911 immediately