Brain Attack or Brain Stroke
Brain stroke is an emergency situation and requires immediate medical intervention. A brain stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to the brain cells that may occur due to the presence of a blood clot or other mass in the blood vessel leading to their death. The death of the brain cells leads to lack of coordination between the affected part of the brain and the related body parts. Early detection of the symptoms and immediate management can prevent several major complications.
The symptoms must be identified and immediate action must be taken, as a delay might lead to the death of the brain tissue. Brain stroke symptoms are easily identified.
Symptoms of brain stroke include:
- Sudden severe headache, dizziness, and vomiting
- Weakness and numbness
- Vision problems in one or both eyes
- Drooping of the face on one side
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty in understanding
- Unsteady walking
The following are the causes of brain stroke:
- Ischemic stroke is caused due to the blockage of the artery by blood clots or narrowing of the blood vessels.
- Hemorrhagic stroke is caused due to the breakage of blood vessel in the brain.
- Transient ischemic attack is caused due to temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain.
Causes of ischemic stroke
Ischemic stroke is caused due to the blockage or narrowing of the arteries, which may lead to reduced blood flow. The causes of blockage or narrowing of the arteries are as follow:
- The deposition of fats, cholesterol and other matter present inside the blood vessel results in the formation of blood clot in the arteries that supply blood to the brain. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.
- The clot formation in the arteries of the neck, heart and other distant organs flow through the bloodstream and get lodged in the small arteries of the brain causing a blockage. This condition is known as embolism.
Causes of hemorrhagic stroke
Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when the blood vessels get ruptured that lead to a decrease in the blood supply to the brain tissue. The blood vessels get ruptured due to the following reasons.
- Hypertension: high blood pressure
- Aneurysms: weak spots in walls of the blood vessels
- Medications: anticoagulants and blood thinners
- Vasospasm: narrowing of the blood vessels erratically
Causes of transient ischemic attack or TIA
Transient ischemic attack occurs due to the presence of blood clot or debris that is responsible for temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain tissue. Usually, the symptoms observed in an ischemic attack are seen for a brief period here.
The following are the risk factors that are associated to brain stroke:
- Obesity and physical inactivity
- Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke
- Heart diseases
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Age and hereditary
- Illicit drugs such as cocaine
The doctor records the medical history and physiological conditions of the patient. He then observes for atherosclerosis symptoms in the neck region with the help of a stethoscope. The following are the diagnostic tests the doctor may recommend for the patient.
- Blood analysis: Identifies diabetes, chemicals balance in the blood, blood clotting time, and infections.
- Imaging tests: CT scan and MRI scans of the brain help to identify hemorrhage, clots, tumor, stroke and blood flow in the arteries, brain tissues and cells.
- Carotid ultrasound test: Sound waves give a detailed image of the carotid arteries and identify the presence of plaques and blood flow in the carotid arteries.
- Cerebral angiogram: X-ray imaging tests help in visualizing the arteries in the brain and the neck by using a catheter.
- Echocardiogram or ECG test: Identifies the heart functions, blood clots in the heart that travel to the brain.
Treatment of ischemic stroke
Treatment of brain stroke depends on the type of brain stroke. The doctor tries to immediately restore blood flow to the brain by using medications to remove or burst the blood clots in the brain.
An injection of recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) may be recommended to break the blood clots in the brain. The doctor uses a catheter to deliver medications and TPA directly to the brain in places where there is a chance for the stroke to reoccur.
Angioplasty is performed to widen the narrowed arteries in the brain by inserting stents to restore the blood flow.
Carotid endarterectomy is a surgery performed to remove plaques in the carotid arteries.
Treatment of hemorrhagic stroke
Medications such as anti-seizure drugs, anti-platelet drugs, Coumadin and counteracting drugs against blood thinners may be prescribed for the treatment of hemorrhagic stroke. Anti-hypertensive drugs, vasospasm preventing drugs, intracranial pressure reducing drugs may also be given additionally.
Surgical blood vessel repair
Blood vessel abnormalities can be minimized by surgical procedures such as:
- Surgical clipping
- Coiling (endovascular embolization)
- Intracranial bypass
- Surgical AVM removal
- Stereotactic radiosurgery
Prevention and self management
A change in the lifestyle of can help in preventing another stroke. The following modalities help to prevent heart diseases and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Controlling hypertension and diabetes
- Quitting tobacco
- Following a balanced and healthy diet
- Maintaining an ideal body weight
- Exercising regularly
- Use of medications such as anticoagulants and anti-platelets reduce the risk of clotting