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Facts on Stroke

Patient Comments
  • A stroke is an alteration, usually acute, in brain function due to injured or killed brain cells. The alterations result in changes in a person's ability to function normally.
  • Stroke is sometimes termed a brain attack or a cardiovascular accident (CVA). It is much like a heart attack, only it occurs in the brain.
  • Strokes are usually caused by brain vessel blockage or bleeding into the brain tissue; both causes result in an inability for an individual to function normally, but there are ways to treat and prevent or reduce the development of strokes.
  • Do not wait or hesitate to call for emergency medical help for someone suffering a stroke. If a stroke is suspected, call 9-1-1; fast treatment has the potential to make a big difference in outcome and recovery.
  • Two main causes of stroke are clotting in an artery that supplies blood to the brain (ischemic stroke), and bleeding into the brain tissue, often from a defect in a blood vessel in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke); mini strokes (TIA's) are usually temporary ischemic strokes that quickly resolve.
  • Ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes often cause permanent losses while a variant of ischemic type of stroke causes transient function loss (termed mini strokes or transient ischemic attacks).
  • Symptoms of stroke include
    • weakness in the arm or leg or both on one side of the body,
    • weakness in the muscles of the face, problems speaking,
    • coordination problems,
    • dizziness and/or loss of consciousness;
    • some individuals may experience a sudden headache, but most patients have no pain.
  • Stroke is preliminarily diagnosed by health-care practitioners after a medical history and physical exam is done; however blood work is often done to rule out other causes of symptoms. The most important imaging study is a CT scan or MRI of the brain.
  • There is no home care for a new stroke, call 911 and go to a stroke center if possible
  • Initial stroke treatment is supportive; only tissue plasminogen factor (tPA) is approved for use under several conditions to break up clots; surgical treatment may include aneurysm clipping, removal of blood that is putting pressure on the brain, and the use of a special catheter to remove clots from large arteries.
  • Chances of someone having a stroke can be reduced by the following.
  • Stroke prognosis is variable; although many people recover completely after a stroke, many others can take months, years or have permanent damage, and about 30% of people die from their stroke.

Call 9-1-1 for stroke

When the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off or greatly decreased, a stroke occurs. If the blood supply is cut off for several hours or more, the brain cells, without enough blood supply, die.

Depending upon the amount of blood involved and location of the stroke area in the brain, a person having a stroke can show many signs and symptoms. These can range from barely noticeable difficulties in moving or speaking to paralysis or death.

Over the last 15 years stroke care has changed dramatically due to the availability of new drugs as well as improved diagnostic and treatment modalities. Nowadays, treatments for the acute event, while it is happening, are available which makes recognizing strokes and getting immediate care critically important.

  • Approximately 795,000 new strokes occur in the United States each year. Stroke is one of the most common causes of death (after heart disease and cancer). Strokes occur more frequently in older people but can occur in persons of all ages, including children. African Americans are at a higher risk of stroke than Caucasians. Hispanics have an intermediate risk.
  • A transient ischemic attack (also known as a TIA or mini-stroke) is similar to a stroke except that with a TIA, the symptoms go away completely within 24 hours. People who have a TIA are very likely to have a stroke in the near future.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017
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Patient Comments & Reviews

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What are the symptoms of stroke?

Symptoms of a stroke happen quickly. A stroke may cause:

  • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
  • Sudden vision changes.
  • Sudden trouble speaking.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
  • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
  • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

If you have any of these symptoms, call or other emergency services right away.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Stroke, Ischemic »

Stroke is characterized by the sudden loss of blood circulation to an area of the brain, resulting in a corresponding loss of neurologic function.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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