A stroke, simply defined, is any condition that causes blood flow to brain cells to be reduced or even stopped. Without the supply of oxygen and nutrients delivered by the blood, those affected brain cells will die within seconds to minutes.
Anything that weakens blood vessels in the brain to the point that they leak or rupture can be a cause of stroke. Conditions that may cause these types of stroke include uncontrolled high blood pressure or aneurysms. Even some autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, may sometimes weaken vessels in the brain.
Also, any condition that causes blockage of blood flow in the brain, such as a clot or narrowed artery, can be a cause of stroke. Fat, cholesterol and other substances can build up on the inside of the artery walls, causing plaque. This plaque, then, can narrow or even completely block an artery in the brain. Any brain cell downstream from that point will be affected, that is it will not get an adequate supply of blood and it will die.
It is important to receive stroke information and to know stroke symptoms before they occur, as time is vital! Any suspicion of stroke symptoms occurring is reason enough to call 911. Stroke treatment that begins within one hour of the first stroke symptoms is known to lead to the best prognosis.
Stroke symptoms can be very dramatic, such as sudden loss of consciousness or speaking nonsensically. However, some stroke symptoms begin more subtly, such as a simple loss of focus in the middle of a conversation, or perhaps a mild weakness on one side of your body.
Other stroke symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, reading, writing, difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes or maybe clumsiness. Paralysis on one side of your body, slurred speech, as well as changes in hearing can also be stroke symptoms.
Additionally, stroke symptoms include confusion, lack of balance, loss of bladder or bowel control, or even dizziness. Even sensation changes, such as inability to touch and feel normally, or an inability to taste food normally, can be symptoms of stroke.
There is a lot of good news in the area of stroke treatment! Thrombolytic
therapy, also sometimes called clot-busting drugs, can be given to a patient if their stroke is determined to be caused by a clot. This treatment works best if given within the first hour but can sometimes still help even several hours after stroke symptoms first occurred.
Blood thinners, such as Coumadin or aspirin, may also be used for stroke treatment in these situations. However, the stroke must first be proven to be caused by a clot, because if the stroke is caused by a bleed in the brain, clot-busting drugs or blood thinners can cause even more bleeding.
This, of course, puts the patient at risk for more damage, perhaps even death. If the stroke is determined to be caused by a bleed, brain surgery is likely required to repair the damaged vessels and stop the bleeding. After emergency stroke treatments stop the damage from progressing, rehabilitation methods are begun to reverse the effects.
Dead brain cells can not be repaired. However, rehabilitative stroke treatments have been very successful in many cases in training the brain to access undamaged cells to take over the function of the damaged cells.
This can be a slow and difficult process but the earlier stroke symptoms are recognized and stroke treatments are begun, the more likely for a successful outcome. Quickly identifying stroke symptoms can save a life.