Pamela Jones, MA
Stroke is a brain injury caused by an interruption in blood flow. Brain tissue that does not get oxygen and nutrients from blood can die within minutes. The damage to the brain can cause a sudden loss in neurologic functions. The types of functions that are affected will depend on the part of the brain that is damaged.
Two blood flow problems that cause a stroke. Strokes may be hemorrhagic or ischemic.
A hemorrhagic stroke can occur because of abnormal blood vessels in the brain. These vessels are weaker than normal vessels and break open under pressure. The blood leaks out of the broken blood vessel and into the brain. This can lead to brain damage because blood flow is interrupted and the pooled blood can cause pressure on the brain.
Blood vessels may be weakened by:
Blood vessels damage can also be caused by trauma like a blow to the head or a car accident.
Factors that may increase your chance of stroke include:
Factors that can weaken your blood vessels and increase your risk of hemorrhagic stroke include:
Blood disorders or medications that reduce blood clotting can also increase your risk of a hemorrhagic stroke.
Rapid treatment is important to decrease the amount of brain damage. Brain tissue without blood flow dies quickly. Call for emergency medical services right away if you notice any of the following symptoms.
Symptoms will depend on the part of the brain affected. Call for emergency medical services right away for:
Other symptoms that may go along with the above symptoms include:
The doctor will look for muscle weakness, visual and speech problems, and movement difficulty. If possible, you will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A
may be done to confirm the diagnosis.
Detailed images of blood vessels will help identify the cause of the bleeding. Images may be taken with one or more of the following tests:
Blood tests can also help identify clotting problems in the blood. Your doctor may also examine the fluid that surrounds your brain and spine.
Immediate treatment is needed to stop the bleeding and relieve pressure on the brain.
If you were taking medications that reduce your blood’s ability to clot you will be given medication to help your blood clot again. This may also include vitamin K.
You may also be given medication to help:
Surgery may be done to help stop the bleeding. Some surgeries can be done by passing catheters from blood vessels in the groin to the affected vessels in the brain.
Options will depend on the cause and location of the bleeding:
A stroke can cause swelling in the brain. A surgery, such as craniotomy, may be needed to relieve the pressure in the brain to prevent further damage.
If brain tissue was damaged, rehabilitation can be an important part of recovery. Rehabilitation may include:
Management and monitoring of medical conditions like aneurysms and high blood pressure can prevent complications like stroke.
Other habits that may reduce your risk of stroke include:
American Heart Association
National Stroke Association
Heart & Stroke Foundation
Public Health Agency of Canada
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Hemorrhagic stroke. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia website. Available at: http://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/hemorrhagic-stroke#.VzOxRk2FPIV. Accessed June 7, 2013.
Hemorrhagic stroke. National Stroke Association. Available at: http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/what-stroke/hemorrhagic-stroke?pagename=HEMSTROKE. Accessed June 10, 2013.
Intracerebral hemorrhage. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115590/Intracerebral-hemorrhage. Updated April 11, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
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Last reviewed May 2016 by Rimas Lukas, MD
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