There are two ways a stroke can occur; one, the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain is blocked, or partially blocked; or two, there is bleeding in the brain. In both instances brain cells can start to die and can leave permanent damage. If brain cells do die or are damaged symptoms in the area those brain cells control can start to develop. Some of the more common symptoms caused by dead or damaged brain cells are sudden weakness; paralysis or numbness in the face, arms or legs; trouble speaking or understanding speech; and blurred vision. A stroke is a serious medical condition can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death. Stroke is a leading cause of death amongst Americans.
Fortunately, early detection and treatment can significantly reduce damage to your brain and significantly reduce the risk of permanent disability. Also, early detection and treatment can help prevent a future stroke from occurring.
Types of Strokes
There are two main types of stroke. The first, and more common type of stroke, is ischemic. If an artery that is supplying oxygen-rich blood to the brain becomes blocked, or partially blocked, it can lead to an ischemic stroke. The most common cause of these blockages is a blood clot. It is important to be aware of a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA also known as a “mini-stroke”). If blood flow to only a portion of the brain is blocked for only a short portion of time it can lead to a TIA. Since the block is only partial and only for a short period of time any damage to brain cells is typically not permanent. Like ischemic strokes, TIAs are most often caused by blood clots. Although a TIA is not technically a stroke, it significantly increases the likelihood you will suffer a stroke.
The second is hemorrhagic. If an artery in the brain ruptures or leaks blood a hemorrhagic stroke can occur. This type of stroke also can damage brain cells due to the pressure the blood creates on the brain. The two most common causes of hemorrhagic strokes are aneurysms and high blood pressure.
Common Signs and Symptoms
- Sudden weakness.
- Vision problems. You may experience blurred vision, blackened vision or double vision.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Paralysis or numbness on the face, arms or legs (especially if it is only on one side of the body). You may experience that one side of your face feels droopy and is difficult to smile or when you raise your arms you are unable to keep both raised.
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech. You may experience slurring of words or confusion.
- Trouble walking. You may experience dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination.
- Sudden headache. If your headache is sudden and severe it may be an indication you are having a stroke. If this is accompanied with vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness it is a strong indication of a stroke.
People At Risk
- People with diabetes
- People with high blood pressure
- People with, or a family history of, heart disease
- The older you are the more likely you are to have a stroke
- People who have already experienced a stroke or TIA
- Family history of stroke or TIA
- Obese people
- People under high stress or depressed
- People with no, or minimal, physical activity
- Heavy drinkers or users of illicit drugs
- People with obstructive sleep apnea
It is important to remember that a stroke is a serious medical condition that requires immediate attention. Failure to take immediate action can lead to permanent brain damage and disability. If you or someone you know is experiencing the above symptoms do not hesitate to seek medical attention.