As we know, when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, the brain is deprived of oxygen and other nutrients, causing the brain cells to die, and this is what we call a Stroke.
In most cases, the stroke affects the Middle Cerebral Artery(MCA) area of the brain, with tissue-death being observed in two general regions – the Superficial Divisions and the Lenticulostriate Branches.
Now that we have seen what is a Stroke, and what areas of the brain it can affect, let’s take a closer look at the causes and symptoms of the stroke.
Stroke is more likely to affect the elderly and those who have a positive familial history. But these circumstantial risk factors are not the only ones – stroke can also affect overweight people, people who have a sedentary lifestyle, people who have poor dietary preferences, people who drink and smoke heavily, and people who are addicted to the use of illicit drugs.
In addition, there are also a whole bunch of other non-circumstantial, non-controllable (but manageable) risk factors that can cause a stroke. These risk factors include:
- Hypertension, or blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or above
- Diabetes and high blood cholesterol of 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or over
- A congenital defect, or a head trauma
- Medical conditions including moyamoya disease, venous angiomas, or a vein of Galen malformation
- Certain drugs and medical conditions result in blood clotting
In addition, a Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may also increase the risk in those who already have carotid artery disease. That said, specific causes can vary for different types of strokes. For example, the Ischemic stroke is caused either by a blood clot stopping the blood flow in the arteries that lead to the brain or by fatty deposits, which narrow the arteries and thus significantly reduce the amount of blood that reaches the brain. On the other hand, Hemorrhagic strokes are caused when an artery ruptures in the brain, thus creating pressure on brain cells and damaging them. This rupture can be the result of a high blood pressure, a weakness of the arterial wall, the side-effect of a blood-thinning medication, or even a trauma. And yet another, albeit rare, cause of stroke is vasculitis, which is a condition in which the blood vessels become inflamed, thus restricting the blood flow to parts of the brain.
Now, to understand the symptoms of a stroke! Except for an ITA, which almost always leads to a major episode of stroke within a year, a stroke often appears without a warning and does so suddenly. Key symptoms include:
- a severe and sudden headache
- paralysis of one side (hemiplegia) or weakness on one side (hemiparesis)
- confusion, difficulty communicating, including slurred speech
- nausea and vomiting with altered consciousness>
- loss of vision (half or full), or balance, or coordination
Additionally, in the medium to longer term, patients might also experience the following symptoms, the severity of which may vary from patient to patient:
- complete or partial loss of bladder or bowel control
- depression, and trouble controlling or expressing emotions
- progressive pain in the extremities
Also, different types of strokes affect the brain differently. For example, a stroke affecting the left side of the brain would affect speech and comprehension, whereas a stroke affecting the right side would weaken the face, the arm, the leg, or a combination of the three. It should also be noted that a right brain stroke would make the left side of the body weak, and vice-versa.
Again, the importance of performing the F.A.S.T. test (Face drooping; Arm weakness; Speech difficulty; Time to act) on a person who is showing the symptoms mentioned above, cannot be emphasized enough. If a loved one is high on the risk factors or has failed the F.A.S.T. test, contact us at 8008104199 immediately to properly diagnose the issue and evaluate treatment options available to you!