Stroke is a condition affecting the arteries leading into the brain and within its tissues. In the United States, it’s the fifth-leading cause of death, as well as a major cause of disability.
Arteries carry oxygenated blood and other nutrients from the heart to the body, including the brain. If an artery becomes blocked, say, due to a clot or plaque, or if it ruptures, the brain area it supplies can’t get the oxygen it needs, and brain cells die — a stroke. Once they’re damaged or destroyed, the cells can’t be repaired or replaced.
At Memphis Neurology, with locations in Southaven, Mississippi, and Germantown, Tennessee, our expert team of neurologists specializes in treating patients with both acute and chronic stroke, rehabilitating their bodies and helping them regain strength.
Knowing the types of strokes and their symptoms will help you know when to get medical treatment. The sooner you do, the less damage your loved one is likely to suffer.
What type of stroke did my loved one have?
Strokes come in three main types, all of which display the same symptoms:
- Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking, and/or difficulty understanding speech
- Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
However, each type has a different cause.
1. Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
A TIA is sometimes called a ministroke because of its brief duration. It occurs when an artery supplying the brain becomes blocked for a short time, usually about 1-5 minutes. While it produces the same symptoms as other types of stroke, it doesn’t cause permanent brain damage. However, it still requires emergency medical care, because it’s often a warning sign of an impending major stroke, so call 911 or go to your local emergency room.
2. Ischemic stroke
Ischemic strokes are the most common type, making up about 87% of all strokes. They occur when a blood clot completely blocks an artery, preventing blood from reaching the brain. Most clots develop due to atherosclerosis, colloquially known as “hardening of the arteries.” A plaque of fat, cholesterol, protein, and calcium builds up on the vessel’s inner wall, narrowing the conduit and limiting blood flow. Unlike a TIA, which is transitory, with an ischemic stroke, the blood clot won’t disappear on its own. You need emergency medical treatment.
3. Hemorrhagic stroke
Unlike the clots of an ischemic stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery within the brain tissue ruptures or otherwise bleeds into the surrounding tissues, leading to tissue damage and cell death. This type of stroke is usually caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure. It’s also a medical emergency.
Only a doctor can determine which type of stroke you’ve had and what the best treatment will be, so getting help as soon as possible is critical to recovery.
Diagnosing and treating stroke
It’s usually a physician in the ER who diagnoses and treats the immediate symptoms of a stroke. Once your loved one is in stable condition, the Memphis Neurology team develops an individualized, long-term treatment plan, holistically based, to help them with their overall recovery.
We start with a complete physical and neurological exam that includes testing vision, eye movements, speech and language, reflexes, strength, and the sensory system, all of which may have been affected by the stroke. We may use a stethoscope to listen to the carotid artery in the neck for signs of atherosclerosis, or an ophthalmoscope to look for cholesterol or platelet fragments (emboli) in the blood vessels serving the retina at the back of the eye.
We also order imaging tests such as CT and MRI scans or an arteriography, which visualizes the arteries within the brain and helps assess which of them are damaged. Once we have all the data, we discuss your loved one’s specific condition with you and present the best approach to treatment.
Treatment may include medications such as clot-busting drugs; therapy, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy; or, most likely, a combination of modalities.
If your loved one has suffered any type of stroke, it’s important to come into Memphis Neurology once they’re stable to determine the best treatment plan to restore them to health. Give us a call at either location to schedule a consultation with one of our neurologists, or book online with us today.