What Is a Stroke?
A stroke is when part of the brain does not get enough or any blood supply, the person is having a stroke. Brain tissue must have a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to perform its functions and stay alive. Even a few minutes without oxygen and nutrients can cause brain cells to die.
A stroke is a medical emergency because the person sustains brain damage whenever the brain cells die off from a lack of oxygen and other nutrients. Immediate professional medical care is paramount to minimize the amount of brain tissue death and long-term impairment from that damage.
Types of Strokes
There are three main types of strokes, transient ischemic attack (TIA), ischemic stroke, and hemorrhagic stroke. Here is an overview of what each kind of stroke is:
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
These strokes also go by the name mini-stroke, TIAs are the least severe form of a stroke. The patient does not sustain permanent damage to the brain tissue and suffers no long-term impairment.
You should view a mini-stroke as a call to action. The likely causes of a TIA are clots forming in an area in the heart or an artery with a narrowing or partial blockage leading to the brain. A person who experiences a TIA has a higher risk of a regular stroke at some point in the future.
A TIA does not happen with a total lack of oxygen to the brain. A person can develop a TIA in as little as five minutes of having a reduced flow of blood to an area of the brain. Your doctor will have to do specific diagnostic tests to determine whether you had a TIA or a regular stroke. You can have irreversible brain damage even if you only experience stroke symptoms for less than an hour.
The vast majority of strokes fall within this category. When the arteries that carry oxygen and nutrients to your brain become blocked or narrowed, your brain will not get enough blood flow. Most ischemic strokes are the result of a blood clot (thrombus) or embolism.
- Plaque can build up in your arteries and eventually form a clot. Fatty deposits make plaque. When a blood clot reduces the blood flow to the brain, you have atherosclerosis, which can lead to a thrombotic stroke. Visualize a water pipe that develops a buildup of debris inside the pipe. Less water gets through the pipe. Eventually, the pipe can clog entirely. That situation can happen in your arteries.
- The arteries in your brain are smaller than in some other areas of the body. You might have a small blood clot or other debris flowing through your bloodstream without any significant consequences until it hits the smaller blood vessels in the brain and gets stuck. This scenario is an embolic stroke.
There are other types of ischemic strokes, but thrombotic and embolic strokes comprise most of the ischemic strokes.
Hemorrhagic strokes account for a smaller portion of all strokes, but they can be deadly. When a blood vessel in the brain bursts or leaks, a person can suffer what is a hemorrhagic stroke. Anything that can harm your blood vessels can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke, like high blood pressure that is not under control, blood thinners, and anatomical flaws in the walls of the blood vessels (aneurysms).
Another cause of hemorrhagic stroke is when the blood vessels in the brain did not form correctly. The blood vessels grow into a tangled formation with thin walls. This situation is arteriovenous malformation. The person walks around for years with a ticking time bomb in his brain, often without realizing it.
Medical professionals also categorize hemorrhagic strokes by where they happen in or on the brain. For example:
- If an artery on the outer surface or near that area ruptures, it is a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
- When the blood vessel rupture happens inside the brain, not on or near the surface, it is an intracerebral hemorrhage.
Regardless of the location of the hemorrhage, the patient can sustain permanent brain damage at the point of the vessel bursting and to areas beyond the rupture, because those areas no longer get the blood flow they need.
Stroke Symptoms Require Immediate Medical Attention
Minutes count when a person is experiencing stroke symptoms. Call 911 if you experience any of the symptoms of what a stroke is:
- A sudden, excruciating headache (A stroke headache is unlike any headache you have ever experienced. You might also have nausea and vomiting.)
- Sudden dizziness or loss of consciousness
- Difficulty walking or keeping your balance
- Slurred speech or confusion
- Weakness, numbness, or paralysis in your arm, leg, or face
- Double vision, sudden blurring, or blackened vision (This symptom can happen in both eyes or one.)
If you have any doubts about whether you are experiencing a stroke, get medical care immediately.
At Newsome Melton, we help people with severe injuries. Call us today at (855) 633-2757 for a free, no-obligation consultation.
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