Stroke is a circulatory system disease affecting the arteries coming into and within the brain. It’s the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States and one of the leading causes of disability.
Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood and other nutrients from the heart to the body’s tissues, including the brain. If an artery is blocked (by a clot or plaque) or ruptures (bursts), that brain area can’t get the oxygen it needs, and brain cells die. This is called a stroke.
At Memphis Neurology, our expert neurology team specializes in acute and chronic strokes and provides expert diagnosis and treatment for our patients in Germantown, Tennessee, and Southaven, Mississippi. Here’s all you need to know about strokes and what you can do for them.
What are the different types of strokes?
These are the three main types of stroke:
1. Transient ischemic attack
Also called a warning or ministroke, a transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when an artery becomes temporarily blocked, leading to stroke symptoms, but it doesn’t cause permanent brain damage. A TIA requires emergency medical care, though, just like a major stroke.
2. Ischemic stroke
An ischemic stroke is by far the most common, accounting for about 87% of all strokes. It occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery and prevents blood from flowing to the brain. The clot often develops because of atherosclerosis, a plaque of fatty deposits on the blood vessel’s inner lining. Unlike with a TIA, though, the blood clot causing the stroke won’t go away unless you receive treatment.
An ischemic stroke can be embolic or thrombotic. The former means the blood clot travels from elsewhere in your body to your brain. Some 15% of embolic strokes come from a condition called atrial fibrillation, where the heart beats irregularly. The latter means the clot forms inside a blood vessel in the brain itself.
3. Hemorrhagic stroke
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in your brain breaks open or leaks blood into the surrounding tissues. There are three main types:
- Aneurysm: portion of a weakened blood vessel balloons outward and ruptures
- Arteriovenous malformation: blood vessels form abnormally and can rupture
- High blood pressure: weakens small blood vessels in the brain, which bleed into the brain
Symptoms of a stroke
The different types of stroke cause similar symptoms because they all affect the blood flow in your brain. The only way to determine the exact type of stroke you’re having is to get medical help as soon as possible. Different imaging tests can give the doctor a good view of what’s going on in your brain.
The National Stroke Association recommends using the FAST method to identify the signs of a stroke:
- Face: If you smile, does one side of your face droop down?
- Arms: If you try to raise both arms, does only one go up?
- Speech: Is your speech slurred, or are you having difficulty talking?
- Time: Time is of the essence for getting treatment; if you have symptoms, call 911 ASAP.
Additional symptoms include:
- Sudden confusion
- Difficulty understanding what other people say
- Trouble walking or loss of coordination
- Sudden dizziness
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Even if you experience these symptoms as part of a TIA, which lasts anywhere from one to five minutes, you shouldn’t ignore them. Get medical attention as soon as you can.
Treating the different types of stroke
If you have a TIA, medications, including antiplatelets (prevent platelet clotting) and anticoagulants (reduce clotting proteins). There’s also a surgical procedure, called a carotid endarterectomy, that removes plaque buildup in the carotid artery in your neck, a major cause of stroke.
Ischemic stroke treatments depend on how fast you can get to a hospital and on your medical history. If you get treatment within three hours of the onset of symptoms, your doctor might be able to use a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Delivered through an IV, this medication can quickly dissolve a clot. However, if you have a risk for bleeding, you may not be a good candidate. In this case, the doctor may choose to physically remove the clot or use clot-busting medications.
Hemorrhagic stroke treatments are aimed at stopping the brain bleed and reducing the side effects it causes, such as increased intracranial pressure. Surgical procedures, such as clipping or coiling, prevent the blood vessel from bleeding further.
When it comes to strokes, you should know the warning signs of a cold, so you can get prompt medical help. To learn more, contact Memphis Neurology by calling either of our locations or book your appointment online today. Time is most certainly of the essence.