A Stroke or 'brain attack' has one of two causes:
1. A blood clot (thrombosis) blocks one of the blood vessels supplying the brain with oxygen and nutrients. If the blood supply is not soon restored, then brain cells will die. This is known as ischaemic stroke, a 'cerebral infarct' or a thrombotic stroke. If the blood clot has formed elsewhere and traveled to the brain, this is known as an embolic stroke. 85% of strokes are caused by clots.
A transient ischaemic attack (ITA) is known as a mini-stroke. This is when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, but only for a short time. That is from a few minutes up to around twenty-four hours.
2. A Brain Haemorrhage. This happens when a blood vessel bursts inside the head. As well as disrupting the supplies of oxygen and nutrients to some parts of the brain, the released blood can cause damage by clotting, swelling etc. When the blood collects between brain and skull this is known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage, when it collects inside the brain this is known as a intracerebral haemorrhage.
Any bleed or thrombo-embolus within the head that causes a loss of function for more than 24 hours can be called a stroke.
- Most commonly paralysis or numbness or weakness, on one side of the body (drooping face, arm or leg, dribbling mouth).
- Blurred vision, usually in one eye.
- Difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
- These signs may also be mixed with dizziness, confusion, or loss of balance. A severe headache often points to a haemorrhage.
A mini-stroke is identified by similar symptoms that typically last for 2 to 15 minutes. Mini strokes are an important warning sign that all is not well. 10% of people who have a mini stroke have a full stroke within a week and 20% within a month.
In all cases seek medical help immediately. Speedy intervention will improve the chances of a full recovery.
The symptoms experienced in the first few days after a stroke may remain. If your symptoms are going to improve, they usually do so in the first six months. Understandably many people suffer from depression after having a stroke. Some patients will need pharmaceutical treatment for this.