Stroke – Definition and Types

A stroke is a brain attack that occurs due to problems with the blood supply to the brain.  Either of the blocked blood supply or a ruptured blood vessel within the brain causes brain tissues to die. Subsequently, abilities such as memory and muscle control that are controlled by that area of the brain are lost. How a person is affected by his stroke depends on the degree of damage and where the stroke has occurred in the brain. People who have severe strokes may lose their ability to speak permanently or be paralyzed on one side of their body forever. While some people recover completely from stroke, more than two third of the survivors will endure some kind of disability.

Every year, about 800,000 people encounter a new or recurrent stroke in the United States of America (USA), which is the fifth leading cause of death in the country. Up to 80 percent of strokes, which are also the leading cause of adult disability in the USA, can be prevented. Sometimes, stroke victim may experience a headache, however, a stroke can also be entirely painless in many cases.

What are the warning signs of stroke?

It is important to recognize the warning signs of stroke in order to get immediate medical help. People having a stroke may experience stiff muscles, paralysis with weak muscles, problems with coordination, weakness of one side of the body, overactive reflexes, or paralysis of one side of the body, depending on severity level.  The entire body may feel balance disorder and fatigue. Light-headedness or vertigo may be felt along with double vision, blurred vision, sudden visual loss or temporary loss of vision in one eye.

The victim may find it difficult to speak or may not be able to speak at all. Alternatively, he may experience slurry speech. There might be a sensation of pins and needles in the body or reduced sensation of touch. Face and limb, both, may feel numbness or muscle weakness. Other commonly observed stroke symptoms include swallowing difficulty, headache, inability to understand, limping and rapid involuntary eye movement.

Women can experience unique or different symptoms of stroke. Some of the symptoms that can also happen abruptly include sudden behavioral change, fainting, weakness, shortness of breath, confusion, irritation, hallucination, nausea and vomiting, pain, seizures or even hiccups.

What are the different types of stroke?

All types of stroke occur due to a loss of blood to part of the brain, however, not all types are created equal. Three main types of stroke, Ischemic Stroke, Hemorrhagic Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack (also known as a mini-stroke), are observed with different warning signs and symptoms.

Ischemic Stroke, the most common stroke, is observed when a fatty substance called plaque collects in the victim’s arteries and narrows them. As this entire action (also known as atherosclerosis) slows the blood flow, blood clumps and forms clots to block the artery. Besides atherosclerosis, some other causes of ischemic stroke are irregular heartbeat, heart attack, the problem with heart’s valves, injury to blood vessels in the neck and other blood clotting problem. Warning signs of Ischemic Stroke include numbness on one side of the body, confusion, dizziness or balance imbalance, trouble in talking or understanding, vision problems and severe headache.

Hemorrhagic stroke, the second kind of stroke, take place when brain bleeding damages nearby cells. This type can be caused by an aneurysm (a weak area in a blood vessel that breaks open) or Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), an abnormally formed blood vessel that opens up and bleeds. Hemorrhagic stroke symptoms are severe, including an intense headache. Other common symptoms include confusion, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light, vision problems and fainting.  People over 65 years are more likely to have this type of stroke, particularly if they have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes and obesity issues. A Hemorrhagic stroke can cause seizures, memory and think related issues, heart problems, swallowing problems and eating – drinking difficulties.

A temporary blockage in blood flow to the brain leads to Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) that are commonly referred as mini-strokes. TIA symptoms, similar to an ischemic stroke, usually last for just a few minutes. Individuals with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, obesity issues, smoking habit and family history of strokes are at higher risk of getting this kind of stroke.  Sometimes, a TIA can be a warning sign of having ischemic stroke in the future.