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Overview of stroke

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Blood supplies nutrients and oxygen to the body. The brain, which controls every action of the body makes from walking and talking to moving your arm and breathing, receives about 20%of the blood that flows through the entire body.

A stroke, also called ‘brain attack’ occurs when the vessels supplying blood to the brain is blocked. This results in the death of the brain cells. Depending on the area of the brain involved and the extent of brain cell death, the specific body functions such as speech, movement or memory may be affected.


Types of stroke

A stroke may be ischemic or hemorrhagic.

Ischemic stroke: This is caused when a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain cutting off the blood flow. The blood clot may form elsewhere in the body and travel through the blood stream to the brain.

Hemorrhagic stroke: This is caused by the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. It can also be caused by a number of disorders such as high blood pressure or cerebral aneurysms (a bulge in the wall of a blood vessel, usually present since birth).


Symptoms of stroke

Following are the symptoms of stroke.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble in speaking.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble while walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.


Risk factors for stroke

The risk factors may be controllable or uncontrollable.

Uncontrollable risk factors are:

  • Age
  • A family history of stroke

Controllable risk factors may include:

Lifestyle factors that increase stroke risk include smoking, excessive alcohol intake and obesity.

Stroke risk factors

Diagnosis of stroke

A quick neurological examination is the first step. The symptoms are assessed and certain blood tests may be carried out. An electrocardiogram and CT scan may also be done. MRI may be advised to detect even slight changes in the brain. Neurosurgeons may advise an MRA (magnetic resonance angiography) to detect blockage of the brain arteries inside the skull.


Treatment of stroke

The treatment for stroke includes drugs, surgery and rehabilitation.

Drugs to prevent or treat stroke are anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents. These agents prevent the formation of blood clots that may block in an artery causing strokes.

Surgery may be done to prevent stroke, to treat acute stroke or to repair blood vessel malformations in and around the brain.

Post-stroke rehabilitation involves physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

Treatment can be more effective if given quickly.

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Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: September 05, 2012