Stroke: Common Causes & Treatment

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May is Stroke Awareness Month, and an opportunity to get the word out and raise awareness on the risks and warning signs associated with stroke. Our team of board-certified brain and spine neurosurgeons are dedicated to using the latest technology to identify patients’ risk of stroke and offer preventive treatment.

According to American Heart Association statistics, there are 795,000 strokes each year. One out of every 18 deaths in the U.S. is due to a stroke, and stroke is the fifth-highest cause of death in the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan.

A person suffers from a stroke when the blood supply to the brain abruptly stops or becomes reduced. This causes the brain tissue to be deprived of important oxygen and nutrients. When this happens, brain cells can begin to die within minutes.

Prompt treatment is crucial, as early action can minimize the extent of damage, and reduce complications.

Common Types of Strokes

There are three main types of stroke:

  • Ischemic Stroke – A Ischemic stroke is caused by blood clots. It occurs as a result of an obstruction in a blood vessel, which limits, reduces or stops blood flow to the brain. This is the most common type of stroke, and is responsible for nearly 85 percent of all strokes. 
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke – A hemorrhagic stroke is caused when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and causes bleeding in the brain. There are two types of weakened blood vessels that could cause a hemorrhagic stroke: aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). The most common cause of a hemorrhagic stroke is uncontrolled high blood pressure. 
  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) – A TIA is often referred to as a mini stroke and is caused by a temporary blood clot. Mini strokes are often warning signs and should be taken seriously.

Causes of Strokes

The two main causes of stroke are blood clots (Ischemic stroke), and bleeding of the brain (Hemorrhagic stroke).

  • Blood Clots

Blood clots can form in an artery that is responsible for supplying blood to the brain. Blood clots are usually formed by plaque buildup, but long-term high blood pressure or diabetes can cause damage to the smaller blood vessels and restrict blood flow. Blood clots can also travel from one part of your body through the bloodstream to your brain. Heart-related issues can put you at risk for blood clots that could potentially cause stroke.

  • Bleeding

Bleeding of the brain, or around the brain can also cause a stroke. Bleeding of the brain itself may be caused by untreated long-term high blood pressure. Less common causes could be certain diseases or head and neck injuries.

Risk Factors

There are many additional factors that can increase the risk of a stroke. Some of those factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being physically inactive
  • Binge drinking
  • Smoking
  • Drug use
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Family medical history 

Prevention

While it isn’t possible to completely eliminate the chance of a stroke, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the chance of one. The same measures that help to reduce your chances of stroke also reduce your chances of having a heart attack. Some preventative measures include:

  • A healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet, weight control, and monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol levels can all help to put you at a lower risk of stroke.
  • If you have diabetes, you should take active measures to control it, as diabetes can be a leading factor in strokes. e
  • Limiting alcohol intake can also help lower the chances of having a stroke.
  • For those who have severely narrowed arteries due to a buildup of plaque, a surgical procedure known as carotid endarterectomy (CEA) can help to significantly reduce the risk of a stroke. CEA, which Rebound neurosurgeons offer, involves unblocking the arteries by removing the build-up of plaque.

Symptoms

If you suspect that you or a loved one may be having a stroke then you should seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms of a stroke can include:

  • Trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech
  • Numbness of the face, arms, or legs (part of the face may droop)
  • Blurred or double vision
  • A severe headache accompanied by dizziness or vomiting
  • Trouble walking/loss of balance or coordination

If you observe any of these signs (or experience these symptoms), call 911 immediately. Time is of the essence when it comes to stroke, since the longer a stroke is left untreated, the greater the amount of brain damage can occur. 

Treatment After a Stroke

Treatment options will vary depending on the type of stroke and the severity.

For acute ischemic stroke, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) may be given via intravenous therapy (IV) to dissolve the clot and improve blood flow to the brain. Another option is an FDA approved mechanical device, which will remove or break up the blockage.

For a hemorrhagic stroke, the first step in treatment is to find the cause of bleeding in the brain.

Treatment options include:

  • Surgical clips, which are inserted into the aneurysm or weaknesses in the blood vessel wall
  • Controlling high blood pressure
  • Surgery to remove the bleeding vessel

After you are stabilized, your doctor will help determine a plan of action to help prevent another stroke from occurring, and to treat the damage caused by the stroke.

At Rebound Clinic, we provide neurosurgery to treat strokes as well as interventional surgical procedures. For more information on stroke, the warning signs, what to look for, and treatment options visit Rebound Clinic today.

 

Related Rebound Resources:

Brain & Spine Neurosurgery Team and Services

Carotid Endarterectomy

Additional Stroke Resources:

American Stroke Association – About Stroke

American Association of Neurological Surgeons – Stroke