What is a stroke?
A stroke is damage to the brain that occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or is blocked by a blood clot. Without blood and the oxygen it carries, part of the brain starts to die. The part of the body controlled by the damaged area of the brain can't work properly.
Brain damage can start within minutes of a stroke. But quick treatment can help limit the damage and increase the chance of a full recovery.
What causes it?
What causes a stroke depends on the type of stroke.
There are two types of stroke:
- An ischemic (say "iss-KEE-mick") stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the brain. A blood clot can form in an artery that supplies blood to the brain. Or a blood clot can form in another part of the body (often the heart) and travel through the bloodstream to the brain. Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke.
- A hemorrhagic (say "heh-muh-RAW-jick") stroke is caused by bleeding in or around the brain. It happens when an artery in the brain leaks or bursts. Hemorrhagic strokes are less common than ischemic strokes.
What are the symptoms?
BE FAST is a simple way to remember the main symptoms of stroke. These symptoms happen suddenly. So knowing what to look for helps you know when to call for medical help.
BE FAST stands for:
B alance. Loss of balance or trouble walking.
E yes. Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.
F ace. Weakness or drooping on one side of the face.
A rm. Weakness or numbness in an arm or leg.
S peech. Trouble speaking.
T ime to call 911.
Other stroke symptoms include sudden confusion, sudden trouble understanding simple statements, fainting, a seizure, and a sudden, severe headache.
When you know what stroke symptoms are, you will know when it's important to call for medical help. Quick treatment can limit damage from a stroke, and it may save your life or someone else's life.
How is it diagnosed?
The first test the doctor will do in the emergency room is a CT scan or MRI of the head. This can show if there is bleeding. Other tests may be done to check the stroke symptoms and check for other health problems.
How is a stroke treated?
For an ischemic stroke, you may get a clot-dissolving medicine called tissue plasminogen activator (TPA). You may get other medicines to prevent blood clots. A procedure may be done to remove the clot and restore blood flow.
For a hemorrhagic stroke, you may get medicine or a transfusion with parts of blood. This can stop the bleeding in the brain. You may have surgery or a procedure to repair an aneurysm or relieve pressure on the brain. You may get medicines to control blood pressure, brain swelling, and other problems.
After either kind of stroke, treatment shifts to preventing future strokes and to your recovery. A stroke rehabilitation program can help you recover and learn ways to adapt to changes caused by a stroke. Medicine and a heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent another stroke. Your doctor will help you manage other conditions that put you at risk for another stroke.
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