Stroke symptoms are varied depending on the region of the brain which is affected. A stroke is caused by the interruption of normal blood flow to a region of the brain which results in death of the brain tissue or impairment of its normal function.
A stroke results from the blockage (partial or complete) of an artery supplying blood to the brain. As well, if a blood vessel ruptures, the flow of blood to the a region of the brain can be disrupted and cause a stroke.
Brain cells need a constant, consistent supply of oxygen and glucose from the blood in order to function properly and survive. An event which temporarily limits the supply of blood to a region of the brain is referred to as a ministroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). If the normal blood supply is restored, normal function of that region of the brain may be restored. However, the cause of the TIA must be identified and eliminated, if possible.
The majority of strokes are ischemic; they are the result of a blockage in an artery supplying blood to the brain. A smaller proportion of strokes are hemorrhagic; a blood vessel ruptures and normal blood flow is lost. The leaking blood can also directly damage the brain tissue itself.
- sudden loss of motor/sensory function of region on one side of the body
- sudden weakness of region on one side of the body
- sudden paralysis of one side of the face
- sudden confusion or difficulty understanding
- sudden severe headache
- sudden slurred speech or speech abnormalities
- sudden loss of vision or vision abnormality (typically in one eye)
- sudden loss of balance and dexterity
- sudden vomiting
- sudden elevated blood pressure
- sudden loss of consciousness
- sudden abnormality in breathing rythym
Diagnosis of the cerebrovascular stroke event is typically through examination and observation of presenting symptoms. Imaging techniques are typically used to confirm diagnosis.
Immediate treatment is to stabilize the patient and to determine the type of event (ischemic or hemorrhagic). Ischemic stroke may be treated with clot dissolving drugs and/or anticoagulants. Hemorrhagic strokes are not treated in this manner and typically treatment is surgical to repair the damaged vessels and remove blood accumulating within the skull cavity. Ongoing treatment for both types of stroke is typically through rehabilitation.
Prevention is a key measure in reducing the incidence of strokes. Lifestyle, diet, and physical activity are key factors in maintaining good health and minimizing the factors which contribute to increased risk of stroke and vascular disease.