Stroke – Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Stroke is a disease that affects the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. Without blood to supply oxygen and nutrients and to remove waste products, brain cells quickly begin to die. Stroke is sometimes called a “brain attack. Stroke is a medical emergency and can cause permanent neurological damage or even death if not promptly diagnosed and treated. It is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the United States and industrialized European nations. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of disability.  The cause of stroke is an interruption in the blood supply, with a resulting depletion of oxygen and glucose in the affected area. This immediately reduces or abolishes neuronal function, and also initiates an ischemic cascade which causes neurons to die or be seriously damaged, further impairing brain function. Risk factors for stroke include advanced age, hypertension (high blood pressure), previous stroke or TIA (transient ischaemic attack), diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, atrial fibrillation, migraine with aura, and thrombophilia. Practice blood pressure is the most important modifiable risk factor of stroke.

Many other risk factors, such as cigarette smoking cessation and treatment of atrial fibrillation with anticoagulant drugs, are important. There are two main types of stroke. One (ischemic stroke) is caused by blockage of a blood vessel. Usually this type of stroke results from clogged arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis. Fatty deposits collect on the wall of the arteries, forming a sticky substance called plaque. Other (hemorrhagic stroke) is caused by bleeding. Bleeding strokes have a much higher fatality rate than strokes caused by clots. Some people have defects in the blood vessels of the brain that make this more likely. The flow of blood after the blood vessel ruptures damages brain cells. Hemorrhage (or bleeding) from an artery in the brain can be caused by a head injury or a burst aneurysm. Aneurysms are blood-filled pouches that balloon out from weak spots in the artery wall. They’re often caused or made worse by high blood pressure. Aneurysms aren’t always dangerous, but if one bursts in the brain, they cause a hemorrhagic stroke.Symptoms of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble with walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination and  sudden severe headache.

There are several available treatments for Stroke. Oxygen may be given to be sure that your brain is getting the maximal amount. Taking birth control pills is generally safe for young, healthy women. Treatment of blood pressure that is too high or too low may be necessary in treating a stroke. Ischemic stroke is treated by removing obstruction and restoring blood flow to the brain. A patient is given antiplatelet medication (aspirin, clopidogrel, dipyridamole), or anticoagulant medication (warfarin), dependent on the cause, when this type of stroke has been found. TPA is  most important new treatments over the last few years for the immediate treatment of a stroke is a medicine called tPA(Tissue Plasminogen Activator). use of Heparin and Aspirin drugs to thin the blood (anticoagulation; for example, heparin) are also sometimes used in treating stroke patients in the hopes of improving the patient’s recovery. Rehabilitation can also take place at a nursing facility. The rehabilitation process can include some or all of the following: (1) speech therapy to relearn talking and swallowing; (2) occupational therapy to regain dexterity in the arms and hands; (3) physical therapy to improve strength and walking; and (4) family education to orient them in caring for their loved one at home and the challenges they will face.

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