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Initial treatment for a stroke happens in the hospital. The sooner you get treatment, the better. The worst damage from a stroke often occurs within the first few hours. The faster you receive treatment, the less damage will occur.
In the hospital
Your treatment will depend on whether the stroke is caused by a blood clot (ischemic) or by bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic). Treatment focuses on restoring blood flow for an ischemic stroke or controlling bleeding for a hemorrhagic stroke.
Before starting treatment, your doctor will use a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of your head to diagnose the type of stroke you've had. For more information about these and other tests, see Exams and Tests.
Emergency treatment for an ischemic stroke depends on the location and cause of the clot. Measures will be taken to stabilize your vital signs, including giving you medicines.
Treatment for hemorrhagic stroke includes efforts to control bleeding, reduce pressure in the brain, and stabilize vital signs, especially blood pressure.
Preventing another stroke
After emergency treatment for stroke, and when your condition has stabilized, treatment focuses on preventing another stroke. It will be important to control your risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Your doctor will probably want you to take one or more medicines to prevent another stroke. For more information on the medicines you may have to take after a stroke, see Medications.
Changes in lifestyle will also be an important part of your treatment to reduce your risk of having another stroke:
Your doctor may also recommend surgery to remove plaque buildup in the carotid arteries. A procedure called carotid artery stenting (CAS) is another option for some people who have blocked carotid arteries. For more information on surgery to prevent a stroke, see Surgery. For more information on CAS, see Other Treatment.
For more information on preventing a stroke, see Prevention.
Starting a rehabilitation (rehab) program as soon as possible after a stroke increases your chances of recovering some of the abilities you lost.
It is not possible to predict precisely how much physical ability you will regain. The more ability you retain immediately after a stroke, the more independent you are likely to be when you are discharged from the hospital. After a stroke:
Your rehab will be based on the physical abilities that were lost, your general health before the stroke, and your ability to participate. Rehab begins with helping you resume activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, and dressing. For more information, see the topic Stroke Rehabilitation.
What to think about
After a person has had a stroke, family members can learn ways to provide support and encouragement to their loved one.
If you get worse, your loved one may need to move you to a care facility that can meet your needs, especially if your caregiver has his or her own health problems that make it difficult to properly care for you. It is common for caregivers to neglect their own health when they are caring for a loved one who has had a stroke. If your caregiver's health declines, the risk of injury to you and your caregiver may increase. For more information, see:
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