Brain Stroke Overview

A brain stroke occurs when one of the brain parts are deprived from oxygen-rich blood due to various mechanisms. Usually a brain stroke occurs when one of the arteries is blocked either because of the narrowing of the small arteries within the brain or the hardening of the arteries that lead to the brain (what is called atherosclerosis). In some cases, a brain stroke may be a result of an embolism which traveled from the heart to the brain. Strokes can be either ischemic (when it is caused by a blood clot) or hemorrhagic (when ruptured aneurysms bleed into to brain).

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) established a list of stroke symptoms that patients experience. The symptoms of a brain stroke occur suddenly and in the case of a transient ischemic attack (“mini-stroke”) they disappear within 24 hours but otherwise tend to be permanent. The numbness or weakness of the face, arm and leg on one side of the body, trouble seeing, talking or understanding along with severe headaches are the first stroke signs. Patients are usually confused, may loss balance or coordination and have trouble walking and they feel dizzy. The stroke is a medical emergency so recognizing the signs as soon as they occur is very important for the patient’s life.

Medication is available for treating brain stroke. Heparin or aspirin are recommended for patients who have suffered from a stroke due to their ability of thinning the blood. However, the tissue plasminogen activator (or TPA) is the most common treatment for brain stroke. It actually consists in injecting TPA into a vein of the arm as soon as possible since the earlier it is administrated, the better the results are.

The most important and difficult part of the treatment is the stroke recovery. As soon as the patient is no longer acutely ill he or she must follow rehabilitation therapy in order to regain his or her functional abilities. Therapy can be followed either at a rehabilitation specialized hospital or at a nursing facility. During recovery, the patient will follow speech therapy to regain his or her ability to talk and swallow occupational therapy in order to regain dexterity in the arms and physical therapy to improve his or her strength and walking. Rehabilitation process includes family education intended to orient the family considering the challenges they will face.

Preventing stroke is the best a patient could do. Those who suffer of diabetes, who smoke or have high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol are predisposed to develop such a condition. Persons at risk should regularly check their blood pressure and cholesterol levels and try keeping them under control. A stroke usually happens with no warning so it is very important that individuals that may suffer for a stroke follow their doctor’s advices.

Some brain strokes may be caused by a brain tumor. Brain cancer and especially primary tumors (those who develop within the brain) may lead to complications such as brain stroke under special circumstances.

 

September 2014
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