A stroke is defined by an event in which blood supply to the brain is interrupted. As a result, the brain does not receive necessary oxygen or nutrients – and brain cells begin to die in minutes. A stroke is considered a medical emergency and prompt treatment is absolutely essential. When early action is taken, the risk of brain damage and other complications are drastically reduced.
At Mecklenburg Neurology, our physicians are knowledgeable and experiences in neurological disorders. If a loved one has been affected by a stroke, we can help with rehabilitation.
What Causes Stroke?
There are two primary causes of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. We’ll take a closer look at the two types below:
- Ischemic stroke: The most common type of stroke, ischemic stroke occurs when the blood vessels in the brain become narrowed or obstructed. This significantly reduces blood flow. Blockages in the blood vessels are caused by fatty deposits, blood clots, or other debris that move through the bloodstream.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: A brain hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures. This can happen for many reasons. Associated factors include high blood pressure, aneurysms, trauma, and more.
Symptoms of stroke can come on suddenly. It’s important to contact your doctor right away if you or someone you know exhibits any of these warning signs:
- Slurred speech
- Confusion or altered consciousness
- Numbness, tingling, or paralysis of the arms, legs, or face
- Difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
- Problems walking
- Vomiting or nausea
- It’s important to go to the emergency room right away. As soon as you arrive, your medical team will perform a number of tests.
Upon your arrival to the emergency room, your doctor will take a CT scan to determine what type of stroke has occurred. This will help rule out other possibilities, such as a brain tumor.
Neurological testing will also be performed to determine how the stroke is affecting your nervous system. You’ll also undergo a physical exam and blood tests. An MRI can detect which blood vessels and tissues have been damaged and help your doctor visualize the severity of the situation. Patients may also have an ultrasound, cerebral angiogram, or echocardiogram.
Treatment for stroke depends on the type of stroke you are having. For ischemic stroke, blood flow must be restored as quickly as possible. For hemorrhagic stroke, the focus is on controlling bleeding and reducing excess pressure on the brain.
Treating Ischemic Stroke
There are a few different ways to treat an ischemic stroke. Some of the most common treatments include:
- IV medications: Clots can be broken up with IV medications. To be effective, this treatment must be administered within 4.5 hours of symptom onset.
- Endovascular medications: A long tube is inserted through an artery in the groin. This is threaded to the brain where medication is delivered directly to the affected blood vessels.
- Clot removal: Your doctor can remove a clot from a blocked blood vessel by attaching a device to a catheter. This procedure is especially helpful for individuals with large clots.
Treating Hemorrhagic Stroke
To treat a hemorrhagic stroke, the excess fluid around the brain must be reduced immediately. This can be achieved through:
- Medications: Your medical team may give you medications to reduce pressure in the brain and lower your blood pressure. In turn, this helps prevent spasms and seizures. If you take blood thinners, you’ll be given drugs to counteract their effect.
- Endovascular embolization: During this procedure, a catheter is threaded from the groin to the brain, where small coils are placed into the aneurysm. This blocks blood flow and encourages clotting.
- Surgical clipping: A small clamp is placed at the base of the aneurysm to prevent bursting.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery: Focused radiation is used to repair damaged, malfunctioning blood vessels.
- Surgery: If the affected area is large, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the blood and reduce pressure on the brain.
Understanding your risk factors and adopting a healthy lifestyle are the most important steps you can take to reduce your risk of stroke. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, avoid tobacco products, and keep any health conditions, such as diabetes, under control. Our Charlotte, NC team can talk with you in detail about stroke prevention.
Contact Our Practice for More Information
If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of stroke, go to the emergency room immediately. To learn more about the condition, and ways to reduce your risk, schedule a visit at our Charlotte practice. We have four convenient locations to serve you. Give us a call at (704) 335-3400.