Ischemic Stroke – Cause, Types and Treatment Options

Ischemic Stroke is the most common stroke as about 85 people out of every 100 who have a stroke suffer this type.  It is observed when a fatty substance called plaque collects in the walls of arteries. This entire action, known as atherosclerosis, results in blood clot (thrombus) blocking an artery leading to the brain. Atherosclerosis starves the brain of needed oxygen and nutrients, which damages the victim’s brain cells.

Irregular heartbeat, heart attack, gradual cholesterol deposition, the problem with heart’s valves, excessive use of drugs, traumatic injury to blood vessels in the neck and disorders of blood clotting are identified as different causes of ischemic stroke.

Warning signs of Ischemic Stroke include numbness on one side of the body, dizziness or balance imbalance, confusion, trouble in talking or understanding, vision problems and severe headache.

Types of Ischemic Stroke

Ischaemic stroke can be further divided into two kinds. In the case of Embolic Stroke (also known as Cerebral Embolism), a blood clot or plaque fragment forms somewhere in the body (in most cases, the heart) and travels through the bloodstream to the brain, blocking required blood supply.  The medical term for this kind of blood clot is Embolus.

As the blood flows through the arteries, it may leave behind cholesterol-laden plaques.  These plaques may stick to the inner wall of the artery and can increase in size and narrow or block the artery over time. Once the blood stops getting through the artery, the Thrombotic Stroke occurs. In this stroke type, the plaques block the major arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain. Medically, the clot that forms on a blood-vessel deposit is called Thrombus. High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are often linked with this kind of stroke.

Ischemic Stroke Treatments

The stroke patient requires instant care for which he should be rushed to a specialist stroke unit in a hospital. Based on the symptoms and severity level, the patient should be prescribed antiplatelet medication or surgery. He might also be given oxygen through a face mask to help him breathe.  

Medication

Medicine(s) having Tissue Plasminogen Activator is given to the patient to break up blood clots and restore blood flow to the brain. A clot-busting medicine, known as Thrombolysis could be prescribed. This class of medication attempts to break down and disperse a clot that is resisting blood to reach the brain. For best results, it needs to be given to the victim within four and a half hours of observing the first stroke symptom.

Antiplatelet medicines such as Aspirin can reduce the risk of blood clotting after a stroke. Anticoagulant medicines like Heparin or Warfarin can also be given to prevent blood clots forming in the future. Other medicines to lower cholesterol and control blood pressure can also be prescribed.

Surgical Option

Patients might need an operation to reduce the risk of having another stroke. A surgical method called Carotid Endarterectomy removes blood clots and fatty deposits from one of the carotid arteries in the neck. Thrombectomy, a treatment that removes the clot with a mechanical device is also being practiced in few European countries, currently.

Recovery from an Ischemic Stroke

The duration of recovery depends on the stroke severity and the degree of brain damage. Different kinds of therapy could be involved in stroke survivor’s rehabilitation plan, depending on his needs, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy.