An Overview On Stroke

Three years ago my uncle went to visit one of his friends and from that day on his life changed forever. It was around the middle of April and the two of them were just sitting in the kitchen together talking, when all of a sudden something about my uncle changed.  He began slurring all his words and made absolutely zero sense when speaking.  My uncle’s friend did not realize that something major was going on at the time instead he just thought- “Are you drunk right now?” My uncle was so confused because is his mind he was making perfect sense. Then when uncle went to go wash his hands in the bathroom he noticed that his mouth was drooping and his lips were still moving. This trigger an alarm for him and he immediately ran out to his friend and said “We need to go to the hospital right now. I am either having a stroke or I have a brain tumor.” In utter panic my uncle’s friend frantically call 911 and they rushed him to the hospital.  Unfortunately the stroke uncovered a terminal brain tumor that my uncle was unaware and he tragically past away seven months after his diagnosis.

Fortunately this type of case is not extremely common and most strokes are up to 80% preventable. A stoke, which is also called a “brain attack,” occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or blood vessel breaks interrupting the blood flow to an area of the brain. When this happens brain cell begin to die and the areas of the brain become damaged.  Brain damage can lead to the loss of control over different functions such as speck, movement and memory.  However, it depends on what area of the brain the stroke occurs in and how much brain damage there is to determine the affect a stroke can have on a person.

There are warning signs for a stroke that can easily be remembered and you must act fast or immediately call 911 once you notice them.  These warning signs help my uncle detect his stroke.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg (especially on one side on the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no cause

An easier way to remember the warning signs it by using the word “FAST.”

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 There are a few different types of strokes that can occur.  An ischemic stroke occurs when a blot clot blocks an artery and cuts off the blood flow to a part of the brain.  This can led to stroke survivors having problem with using certain parts of their bodies or completely lose some of the abilities.  Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke and can occur in two forms (embolic and thrombotic strokes). Embolic stroke occurs when a blood clot or plaque fragment forms somewhere in the body (usually in the heart of the large arteries leading to the brain).   Then it moves into the bloodstream blocking a blood vessel in the brain and causing the stroke. A thrombotic stroke is when a blood clot forms inside an artery that supplies blood to the brain and interrupts the blood flow causing the stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke is cause by a blood vessel in the brain bursts because of high blood pressure or brain aneurysms.  Other types of hemorrhagic stroke are intracerebral hemorrhage, aneurysm, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Intracerebral hemorrhage is when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds into the brain.  An aneurysm is a weak spot on the wall on an artery that may balloon out, forming a thin walled bubble.  As the bubble gets bigger the wall becomes weaker and can burst and bleed into or outside the brain.  Subarachnoid hemorrhage is when a blood vessel bursts near the surface of the brain and the blood pours into the area around the outside of the brain.  This increases pressure of the brain and damages cells.

Ways a stroke can be treated is through thrombolytics, tPA, MERCI Retrival System, and Penumbra System. Thrombolytic drugs help reestablish blood flow to the brain and dissolve the clot.  These drugs must be given right away.  tPA is an enzyme found naturally in the body that converts plasminogen into another enzyme to dissolve the blood clot.  It may also be administered through an IV by doctors to speed up the dissolving of the clot.  This should be given within 3 hours upon the start of the symptoms.  The MERCI Retrieval System can be administered for patients who are beyond the 3 hour time frame.  The system uses a tiny cork screw shaped device that works by wrapping around the clot and trapping it.  Once the clot is retrieved, it is then removed from the body.  The Penumbra System allows for safe revascularization of occluded vessels after an ischemic stroke. It also helps restore blood flow in the brain by using suction to grab the clots in the brain for treatment of acute ischemic stroke and is used beyond the 3 hour window.

Depending on the level of brain damage and where the stroke occurred in the brain, it is different to say any exact course of treatment for stroke survivors because each case is different.  However, therapy is commonly used to help patients regain any abilities they may have lost from the stroke.  Advancements in therapies are always being made to make the process easier and more effective.  Recovery time constantly varies and sometimes patients do not full regain their abilities.

Risk factors that you can control to reduce the chance of having a stroke are:

Controllable Medical Risk Factors

Controllable Lifestyle Risk Factors

High Blood Pressure

Tobacco Use

Atrial Fibrillation

Smoking

High Cholesterol

Alcohol Use

Diabetes

Physical Inactivity

Atherosclerosis

Obesity

Circulation Problems

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