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Stroke - Description, causes, risks and treatment

A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted, resulting in the death of surrounding brain tissue and causing sudden symptoms. When blood flow to the brain is interrupted, often as a result of an embolism or atherosclerosis, it is called ischemic stroke. When blood vessels in the brain rupture, it is called hemorrhagic stroke. People who have had a stroke often present with a wide range of potential signs and symptoms, depending on the area or areas of the brain affected. This could include weakness, vomiting, paralysis, slurred speech, loss of vision and coordination, and severe headache. Ischemic stroke is usually due to blockage of an artery. Transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini stroke resembles ischemic stroke, except that the symptoms usually last no more than one hour. The single most important modifiable risk factor for ischemic stroke is hypertension. Patients with acute ischemic strokes are usually hospitalized. Treatment may include drugs to stabilize blood pressure, thrombolytic therapy to prevent the formation of further blood clots, and surgery to remove plaque buildup in the arteries. Prognosis depends on the severity and progression of the stroke and is generally worse with older age, impaired consciousness, aphasia, or brainstem signs. Hemorrhagic stroke is a potentially life-threatening condition. People with hemorrhagic stroke often experience a thunderclap headache, unexpected and unusually severe headache, which is indicative of a ruptured aneurysm. This type of stroke is commonly caused by structure anomalies, such as arteriovenous malformations, amyloid deposits in the cerebral blood vessels, the use of certain anticoagulant drugs, and the abuse of drugs such as, amphetamines and cocaine.

Stroke - Description, causes, risks and treatment

Review Date: 7/29/2018

Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, FAAN, Attending Neurologist & Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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