Stroke Causes, Types, Symptoms And Treatment
A stroke occurs when an artery responsible for supplying blood to the brain gets blocked, subsequently damaging the surrounding cells and tissues. Stroke causes damage to the brain, and its effects differ according to the type, duration, and size of the affected area in the brain. Brain damage can be quick, so it is vital to be aware of the signs and act immediately. Read further to be mindful of the types of stroke, causes, symptoms, and management.
Types Of Stroke
a.) Ischaemic stroke:
Ischaemic stroke is the most commonly occurring type of stroke. It occurs when the blood supply to the brain is arrested. Due to this, the brain will be deprived of oxygen and nutrients. An ischaemic stroke are of two types:
- Embolic stroke: Embolic stroke occurs when the blood clots that formed elsewhere move to the brain through the bloodstream and clogs the blood vessel that carries blood to the brain.
- Thrombotic stroke: Thrombotic stroke refers to the blood clot formation in the brain's arteries that eventually block the blood flow to the brain tissue. Irregular heartbeat is one of the most important causes for thrombotic stroke.
b.) Haemorrhagic stroke:
Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. It is rare but deadly. When a blood vessel bursts, the blood spills into or around the brain. This blood that spills causes continuous pressure on the surrounding blood vessels, and due to this, the blood vessels enlarge like a balloon. These blood vessels become weak as they grow. The two types of stroke that result due to haemorrhage include:
- Intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke: Intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weak blood vessel leaks into the brain, ultimately causing tissue death. The most frequent intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke causes include uncontrolled high blood pressure.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhagic stroke: Subarachnoid hemorrhagic stroke occurs when the weak blood vessel leaks blood into the skull and brain space, called the subarachnoid space. This blood disturbs the surrounding blood vessels and blocks the blood flow into the brain, leading to stroke.
Other types of stroke include cryptogenic stroke and transient ischaemic attack. A cryptogenic stroke occurs without any known reason, and it accounts for 25 per cent of all types of stroke.
Though the transient ischaemic attack is not exactly a stroke, it causes serious consequences similar to a stroke. It happens when blood flow to the brain stops all of a sudden for a while and restores without causing tissue death. The transient ischaemic attack is an indication that stroke might occur in the near future, and hence it is also referred to as the warning stroke.
What Are The Stroke Causes?
Following is a list of stroke causes that you need to check. Some risk factors are not in our control, but you can cut down the risk to a great extent by adjusting your lifestyle.
- Age: As you get older, your risk of getting a stroke increases.
- Gender: Men are more prone to stroke, but women are more likely to die from stroke.
- Family history: If anybody in your family has experienced a stroke, the chances of you getting a stroke is higher.
- Previous stroke episode: If you have had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack in the past, the chances of getting it again are greater.
- Smoking, alcohol and drug use: Smoking increases the chances of forming blood clots. As you smoke, plaques begin to accumulate in your arteries more quickly, and this process narrows down your arteries and results in high blood pressure.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure is one of the primary stroke causes. Once you turn 55, you must constantly check your blood pressure and contact your physician for advice if it is not in the normal range (120/80mmHg).
- High blood cholesterol: Abnormal cholesterol levels lead to an unhealthy accumulation of fats in the arteries. As a result, these deposits make the arteries narrow and obstruct the free flow of blood.
- Obesity: If you have excess body weight and body fat around your belly, your chances of getting a stroke are high.
- Diabetes: Diabetes influences the accumulation of plaques in the arteries. When your body does not utilize the insulin (insulin resistance), your good cholesterol levels reduce and enable the formation of blood clots.
- Heart disease: Pre-existing heart problems are one of the typical stroke causes. Heart problems like carotid artery disease and irregular heartbeat obstruct blood flow from the heart to other parts of the body and may lead to blood clots, eventually resulting in a stroke.
- Estrogen: Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy consisting of estrogen hormone influences blood clot formation and increases the likelihood of stroke.
Watch Out For These Warning Signs Of Stroke
- Sudden and severe headache
- Vision trouble
- Sudden dizziness
- Trouble walking and talking
- Numbness on one side of the body
- Inability to balance
How To Manage Stroke?
Once a stroke is suspected, your healthcare provider will aim to restore the blood flow to your brain. Since timing is crucial here, you or your caregiver should immediately contact the ambulance if you experience any stroke symptoms. The stroke treatment approach involves the use of medicines or medical procedures.
The first approach before using medications is to determine the stroke causes and the type of stroke that occurred. The following medications are commonly preferred by healthcare providers to manage stroke effectively.
a. Thrombolytic medications: These medications should be given within 3 hours of stroke symptoms. They dissolve blood clots that interrupt blood flow to the brain, and thin the blood thus preventing the formation of blood clots.
b. Anticoagulant medications: These medications delay the blood clotting process and prevent the existing blood clots from enlarging your blood vessels. Some of the most commonly used drugs are warfarin and heparin.
c. Tissue plasminogen activator:Alteplase is the only FDA approved medication for treating ischaemic stroke. It works by dissolving the blood clot and improving the blood flow to the affected part of the brain. Alteplase can save lives and minimize the long-term effects of stroke.
d. Emergency medications for hemorrhagic stroke: If your healthcare provider suspects haemorrhagic stroke and you are taking medicines that dissolve blood clots, your physician will provide therapy that reverses the blood-thinning effects of these medications. You will also be put on medications that reduce pressure on your brain to lower your blood pressure and prevent complications.
e. Other medications: Other medications include medicines to maintain blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels under control to minimize the chances of having a stroke.
2. Medical Procedure To Remove Stroke:
a. Mechanical thrombectomy:
The medical procedure involved in removing stroke is known as mechanical thrombectomy. In patients who have suffered damage to their brain artery, this method is beneficial to remove the blood clots in the large blood vessels of the brain and minimize their risk of disability. Your surgeon will evaluate your health to check whether you are eligible for this procedure and use a catheter to remove your blood clots.
b. Surgical clipping or coiling:
This method is preferred for hemorrhagic stroke if your blood vessels are enlarged or if your arteries and veins are not functioning correctly. Attaching a clamp or detachable coil in the enlarged blood vessel blocks the blood flow into the brain area that is causing a haemorrhagic stroke.
c. Nutrition therapy:
- Eat foods less in salt content
- Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables. You can include bananas, apples, oranges, sweet potatoes, tomatoes etc. Aim for 2 cups of fruits and 3 cups of vegetables per day.
- Eat foods low in fat content or heart-healthy fats. This diet helps maintain your blood pressure.
- Avoid eating packed foods or restaurant foods. If you are eating from outside once in a while, ask for a customized preparation with less salt.
- Avoid whole cream milk, butter, cream and coconut oil.
Care For Yourself After Stroke:
Implement self-care practices to maintain optimum health after stroke. Watch out for your stroke causes and symptoms, and reach out to your healthcare provider anytime you feel uncomfortable. Do not skip or stop your medications without consulting your physician. Seek help from a qualified mental health professional to quit habits that aggravate stroke (smoking, alcohol consumption). Meditate and perform light intensity exercises on a routine basis to remain active and relaxed. Visit your physician periodically to ensure that your cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood glucose levels are under control.