Stroke Emergency - Types of Strokes
Strokes are medical emergencies. Early treatment can minimize the damage to the brain and potential stroke complications. Strokes (also known as CVA – Cerebral Vascular Accidents) are the third leading cause of death in America with over 143,579 people dying each year in the United States.
It is the leading cause of long term disability also. Out of 795,000 people having strokes, 600,000 are having their first attack, and 185,000 are recurrent attacks. Nearly 75% of strokes happen to people over 65. The risk doubles with each decade after the age of 55.
A stroke occurs when the blood flow is blocked to an area of the brain. This can be from a blood clot or a piece of plaque that breaks off and ends up in the brain which deprives the brain of oxygen and nutrients. The symptoms of a stroke depend on which part of the brain is affected.
A headache may occur, particularly if the stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain.
The headache characteristics are:
- The headache starts suddenly and may become severe
- Occurs when lying flat
- Wakes you up from sleep
- Gets worse when you change positions or when you bend, strain or cough.
There are particular signs to watch for if you think you or someone else is having a stroke:
- Walking- You may be suddenly dizzy and stumble, have a loss of balance and/or coordination.
- Speaking – You speech may become garbled or not be able to come up with the words to explain what is happening to you (called aphasia). Try to repeat a simple sentence and if you aren’t able you may be having a stroke.
- Paralysis or numbness on one side of the body - The numbness or weakness may have a sudden onset just on one side of the body. Try to raise both hands over your head at the same time. If one arm starts to fall this is a sign of a stroke.
- Visual problems – You may have sudden blurred or blackened vision, or see double.
- Headache – Sudden, severe headache or sometimes an unusual headache that is accompanied by a stiff neck, facial pain, pain between your eyes, vomiting or altered consciousness might be indicators of a stroke.
Great Explanation of Stroke Physiology
Steps to Follow if You are With Someone Having a Stroke
Usually strokes give no warning, but some people do have one or more TIAs (Transient Ischemic Attacks) which is an episode of stroke symptoms lasting typically for just a brief period of time (a few minutes up to 24 hours). This is a serious sign of a possible impending stroke; get medical help immediately. While a TIA may seem like a passing event, it is an important warning sign.
If you are with someone who is having a stroke, call 911 immediately, then watch for their breathing and use mouth to mouth resuscitation if necessary; if they vomit, turn their head to the side to prevent choking and don’t let the person drink anything.
Stokes may occur in the cerebellum, right or left side of the brain. There are two categories of strokes; Ischemic and Hemorrhagic.
Ischemic: About 80% of strokes are ischemic which means they occur when the arteries to your brain are not getting enough oxygen due to narrowing of the artery, and brain cells start dying within minutes. Either a blood clot forms in a damaged area due to atherosclerosis (plaque causing narrowing) or the same process takes place in one of the carotid arteries in the neck.
There is a second type of ischemic stroke also which occurs when a blood clot (embolus) or other particle forms in a blood vessel away from your brain, such as in your heart, and it is swept through the body to lodge in the brain. This second type of ischemic stroke occurs most often in people who have heart rhythm abnormalities (atrial fibrillation).
Hemorrhagic is the medical term for bleeding, and the stroke occurs when a blood vessel in your brain ruptures. This can occur for a number of reasons:
- Very high blood pressure
- A weak spot in one of the arteries called an aneurysm
- A less common type called an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which is an abnormal tangle of thin-walled blood vessels present at birth.
Treatment for Hemorrhage Strokes
There are three types of treatment for these strokes:
- Aneurysm clipping where a tiny clamp is applied at the base of the aneurysm
- Coiling is a procedure where a catheter is maneuvered into the aneurysm and a tiny coil is pushed through the catheter, then positioned inside the aneurysm which will cause clotting and sealing of the aneurysm.
- Surgical AVM removal if the AVM is not too large.
There are two areas where hemorrhage strokes occur:
- Intracerebral hemorrhage – This is when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and spills into surrounding tissue damaging cells. The brain cells beyond the leak are damaged. High blood pressure is the most common cause of this type of stroke.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage – Bleeding starts in a larger artery in this type of stroke on or near the surface of the brain and spills into the space beneath the surface of the brain and skull. This type of hemorrhage typically causes a “thunderclap” headache. Usually it is caused by the rupture of an aneurysm, which may have been genetically inherited or have developed over time. After the rupture, blood vessels may spasm causing further damage.
Acute Stroke Treatments
This is the first article about strokes, and it is meant to give you an overview of strokes, the types of strokes, the procedures the hospitals use and what to do if you are with someone having a stroke. I hope you will remember the typical symptoms of a stroke, as time is of the essence to prevent as much damage as possible, and maybe save a life.
Be sure to my next articleabout strokes, as it covers risk factors for stroke, my own personal experience with my husband's stroke and what you can do as a caregiver or friend to help the stroke victim and their family.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.