Why You Shouldn't Ignore Potential Stroke Symptoms

Why You Shouldn't Ignore Potential Stroke Symptoms

Stroke is a potential complication of circulatory system problems, notably the arteries leading into the brain and within its tissues. It’s the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, as well as a major cause of disability.

Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood and other nutrients from the heart to the rest of the body, including the brain. If an artery becomes blocked due to a clot or a fatty plaque, or if it ruptures, the area of the brain it supplies doesn’t get the oxygen it needs, and brain cells start to die — a stroke. Once the cells are damaged or destroyed, they can’t be repaired or replaced.

At Memphis Neurology, located in Southaven, Mississippi, and Germantown, Tennessee, our expert team of neurologists specializes in treating acute and chronic stroke patients, rehabilitating their bodies, and helping them regain strength.

Because stroke can lead to severe, permanent disability or even death, you shouldn’t ignore any potential symptoms. Here’s what you need to know.

Potential stroke symptoms and underlying causes

Strokes come in three main types, all of which display the same symptoms:

Though the symptoms are the same, each type has a different cause.

1. Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

A TIA is sometimes called a “mini-stroke” because symptoms only last a short time and don’t lead to permanent brain damage. It occurs when an artery supplying the brain becomes temporarily blocked and usually lasts only 1-5 minutes. However, you still need emergency medical care because it’s often a warning that a major stroke is coming. If you experience the symptoms, call 911 or go to your local emergency room.

2. Ischemic stroke

Ischemic stroke is the most common type, comprising about 87% of all strokes. It occurs when a clot completely blocks an artery serving the brain, preventing blood from reaching its destination.

Most clots develop because of atherosclerosis, informally known as “hardening of the arteries.” A plaque of different fats, cholesterol, protein, calcium, and cell debris builds up on the vessel’s inner wall, narrowing the conduit. That means the heart has to work harder to pump the same amount of blood. And because the flow is sluggish, clots have an opportunity to form. The longer the condition goes untreated, the bigger the clot becomes until it blocks the artery completely. 

Unlike a TIA, which dissipates quickly, with an ischemic stroke, the blood clot won’t disappear independently. You need emergency medical treatment to prevent cell damage and death.

3. Hemorrhagic stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery within the brain leaks blood into the surrounding tissues or ruptures and floods the tissue with blood. This leads to tissue damage and cell death. This type of stroke is most often caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure and is also a medical emergency.

Only a doctor can diagnose which type of stroke you’ve had and what the best treatment options for you are, so getting help as soon as you notice something’s amiss is critical to your recovery.

Diagnosing and treating stroke

Because stroke is a medical emergency, it’s usually a doctor in the ER who diagnoses and treats your immediate symptoms. Once you’re in stable condition, the Memphis Neurology team develops a personalized, long-term treatment plan, holistically based, to help with your recovery. 

We start by performing a complete physical and neurological exam that includes tests for:

All of these areas may have been affected by the stroke.

In the exam, we use a stethoscope to listen to the blood flow in the carotid arteries in the neck (for signs of atherosclerosis) and an ophthalmoscope to examine the blood vessels feeding the retina at the back of the eye (for cholesterol or platelet fragments (emboli)).

We also order imaging tests, including a CT or MRI scan and/or arteriography, which highlights the arteries within the brain to assess which are damaged. Once we have all the data, we discuss your condition with you and present what we believe is the best approach to treatment.

If you notice any potential stroke symptoms, don’t ignore them — your life is at stake. Seek immediate medical attention. When you’re stable, schedule an appointment with Memphis Neurology for an evaluation to determine the best treatment plan to restore your health. Call us at either location or book online with us today.

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