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Stroke, what is it?

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

Stroke or cerebrovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death & disability in the UK & is estimated that 100.000 people per year suffer with a stroke & as a consequence around 38.000 die or are left with a disability.

The meaning of Cerebrovascular accident (CVA.)

The word cerebrovascular is made from two separate words put together.

Cerebro - large part of the brain.

Vascular - Arteries.

Put together the meaning cerebrovascular (CVA) better known as stroke is an abrupt or sudden decrease in the flow of blood to the brain cells causing a blood clot or a bleed in the brain when a vessel bursts, this is classed as a medical emergency and urgent medical help is needed.

Ischaemic stroke Vs haemorrhagic stroke.

Ischemic stroke - 85% of stroke cases in the UK will suffer from this type of stroke making this the most common type of stroke to have. Its when the blood supply in an artery that leads to the brain develops a blood clot. There are different reasons why blockages form to cause this type of stroke:

  • Atherosclerosis - Meaning hardening of the arteries due to a build up of cholesterol & is the cause of half of all strokes. This build up of cholesterol happens in an artery that leads to the brain, over a long period of time will eventually block leading to a stroke.

  • Atrial fibrillation - Is an abnormal heart arrhythmia. Its when uncoordinated blood flow is pushed through the chambers of the heart & may form a blood clot & travel through the bloodstream to the brain causing a stroke.

  • Patent foramen ovale (PFO) - Is a hole in the heart between the two upper chambers ( the left & right atrium) where a thin membrane runs between that's made up of two connecting flaps, this is called the foramen ovale normally no blood can flow between them. Sometimes at birth the two connecting flaps haven't closed the way they should & this is called patent foramen ovale. one in four people have this & most never know, only when they have tests for another health problem it's discovered. Blood clots may form in veins & travel through patent foramen ovale to the left atrium chamber & possibly move through to the brain & cause an ischemic stroke.

  • Arterial dissection - When a tear happens along the inside wall of the cartiod arteries located on either side of the neck or the vertebral artery that runs through the spinal column of the neck. Eventually a type of pocket will form, this is called a false lumen where blood gets trapped inside the pocket, this will develop a blood clot. The blood flow in the artery will now be blocked leading to an ischemic stroke.

Haemorrhagic stroke - 15% of all strokes in the UK are caused by a haemorrhagic strokes

The cause is vessels that have ruptured & the blood compresses the brain.

There are two types of haemorrhagic stroke:

  • Intracerebral hemorrhagic - When an artery ruptures in or around the brain causing bleeding. The causes may be a head injury trauma, high blood pressure (hypertension) or abnormal blood vessels within the brain.

  • Subarachnoid haemorrhage - A blood vessel that has burst causing bleeding in between the space surrounding the membrane known as the subarachnoid space & the brain. The main causes of why aneurysms develop are unclear, but there are risk factor's involved such as smoking, high blood pressure or years of too much alcohol.

Signs & symptoms.
  • An abrupt loss of sensation in the arm, leg , face, usually on one side of the body.

  • Confused with trouble speaking or understanding speech.

  • Problems in seeing in one or both eyes, severe headache.

  • Problems in walking, balance, coordination, feeling very dizzy.

T- TIME CALL 999 OR 112

Too help the health professionals, write down when the symptoms first appeared. if symptoms go away while you are waiting for the ambulance still go to the hospital the casualty will need too be assessed all the same.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA).

A transient ischemic attack is when there is a temporarily disruption to the blood supply to the brain. It's classed as a mini stroke.

General symptoms include the dropping of the face on one side, unable to lift your arms & problems with speech.

TIA effects can last minutes to maybe a few hours & fully recover in twenty four hours, but

It's impossible too tell the difference of a TIA or a full stroke so it's important to call the emergency services & you will need to go to hospital even if the symptoms have disappeared, you need to be assessed!

If a TIA is suspected then aspirin will be give to prevent a full stroke.

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