What is a stroke?

What is a stroke?

Stroke, medically called a cerebro vascular accident, occurs in the blood vessel in the brain. The reason for the accident may differ but the result is the same- disruption of the blood supply to a portion of the brain.

Why a stoke happens.

Blood is pumped throughout the body through tube-like blood vessels. The large vessels from the heart branch out into smaller blood vessels that keep branching out into progressively smaller vessels till they reach the capillaries, tubes as thin as a strand of hair. Oxygen and nutrients pass into tissues and carbon dioxide and waste material pass from the tissues to the blood through these capillaries.

A stroke happens when blood supply is stopped in a part of the brain due to a blocked blood vessel (ischemic stroke) or a burst blood vessel (haemorrhagic stroke).

Here’s what happens during a stroke.

Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to every cell in the body. During a stroke the brain cells become weaker as they don’t receive oxygen and nutrients. This weakness increases till the cells lose their function and die, and it becomes impossible to revive them to reclaim lost function. The cells and the actions they controlled will be permanently lost.

The amount of function lost, or physical and mental disability, depends on the amount of area damaged in the brain. If the damage is minor or moderate, we can reclaim some, but not all, function through rehabilitation.

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Types of stroke

A stroke is a medical emergency characterized by sudden interruption of blood supply to the brain, leading to brain cell damage or death. Symptoms include paralysis, speech difficulties, and cognitive impairments, requiring immediate medical attention for effective treatment and prevention of long-term disability.     

Haemorrhagic stroke

Haemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. There are 2 types of haemorrhagic stroke.When the small capillaries burst due to high blood pressure or complications of high blood sugar, it causes intra parenchymal haemorrhage, bleeding within the brain tissue. When a major blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to the brain bursts, it is called subarachnoid haemorrhage. This is caused when a weak part of the blood vessel balloons out under pressure. When it bursts, pressure of the flow damages brain cells in addition to cell damage due to oxygen loss.      

Ischemic stroke

This is caused by blockage. A blood vessel may become blocked by deposition of cholesterol or blood clot, or it may become narrow due to high blood pressure. The block will gradually grow till it completely closes off the vessel. Blood flow will reduce and not enough blood will flow through the vessel till it stops completely. This results in ischemic stroke.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

Transient Ischemic Attack is a mini stroke. It comes with the symptoms of stroke, sometimes milder. The symptoms go away on their own, but these events should not be ignored. TIA is a warning that a major stroke could occur in the future. Immediate evaluation by a neurologist is necessary to prevent future a future emergency.

What you should do when someone has stroke.

Whatever the cause, if you recognise the symptoms of stroke, rush the patient to a dedicated stroke centre to start treatment within 4 hours of onset of symptoms. This will prevent permanent disability and give better results. Look out for face drooping on one side, inability to speak clearly, weakness of arms or legs, severe headache and confusion. Take the patient to a dedicated stroke centre immediately.

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