What is stroke?

A stroke occurs if brain cells die from one of two causes. The first, called ischemic stroke, occurs with blocked or interrupted blood flow to the brain, usually caused by a blood clot. The type of ischemic stroke depends on where the blood clot originates. The second is called a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs with pressure from bleeding inside the brain caused by a leaking or ruptured artery. Hemorrhagic strokes can be caused by high blood pressure, an aneurysm or an arteriovenous malformation (defective veins and arteries in the brain that can rupture and bleed).

Stroke is a serious medical emergency. It can cause brain damage, disability or death. If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, call 911 immediately. Prompt treatment can reduce brain damage and help avoid lasting disabilities.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The symptoms of stroke often develop very quickly, but they can also develop over hours or even days. Common symptoms include sudden weakness, paralysis or numbness of the face, arms or legs, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, trouble seeing from one or both eyes, trouble breathing, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, loss of consciousness or a sudden and severe headache.

Methods of treatment

Treatment depends on whether a stroke was ischemic or hemorrhagic. In ischemic stroke, treatment is aimed at breaking up the blood clot that is responsible for the stroke. Similarly, in hemorrhagic stroke, treatment is aimed at halting the bleeding that caused the stroke.

Rehabilitation may be necessary to assist in stroke recovery. This may include physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Most repeat strokes come soon after the initial stroke. Making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight may help prevent future strokes.