Types of Strokes

A stroke occurs when there is a sudden disruption in the brain's blood supply. Whether or not there are any lasting side effects is dependent upon which part of the brain has been damaged and the severity. There are three different types of strokes, and each has distinguishing characteristics.

Ischemic strokes

This type is the most common stroke. Approximately 87 percent of all reported stroke cases are diagnosed as ischemic. The cause is rooted in an underlying condition where fatty deposits obstruct blood vessel walls causing a condition called atherosclerosis. There are three types of Ischemic strokes:

  • Cerebral thrombosis: A blood clot develops in the spot where the vessel is clogged.
  • Cerebral embolism: This stroke occurs when a blood clot forms in another place in the body, most commonly in the heart or large arteries in the upper chest and neck. If a portion of the clot breaks off, it enters the bloodstream and makes its way through blood vessels in the brain until it tries to pass through one that's too narrow. Another cause of a cerebral embolism is an irregular heartbeat (also called atrial fibrillation). A condition is created that allows the formation of clots in the heart that become dislodged and then travel to the brain.
  • Silent cerebral infarction (SCI): Also called a "silent stroke," SCI is a brain injury usually caused by a blood clot that stops blood flow to the brain. When this happens, there's a risk factor for a series of future strokes that can lead to progressive brain damage.

Hemorrhagic strokes

This type of stroke makes up approximately 13 percent of all reported stroke cases. When a hemorrhagic stroke happens, the cause is a weakened blood vessel that ruptures and bleeds into surrounding brain tissue. There are also two different types of hemorrhagic strokes caused by aneurysms and arteriovenous malfunctions (AVM). When an aneurysm occurs, a weakened blood vessel blows up like a balloon, and if untreated, the vessel will rupture and will bleed into the brain. An AVM, on the other hand, is a cluster of oddly formed blood vessels that can also rupture and bleed into the brain.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

TIA's are also called "mini strokes." They are characterized as a warning stroke that should always be taken seriously. Also caused by clot, the difference between a TIA and the other type types of strokes is that during a TIA the blockage is temporary. Symptoms come on quickly and last only a short time-on average one to five minutes. Also unlike a regular stroke, when a TIA is over, there is no lasting brain damage.

People who experience strokes suffer similar side effects in the form of sudden weakness, difficulty speaking, vision problems or walking. Because different areas of the brain control different functions, most often the functions of the brain surrounding the area of the stroke are the ones affected. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs of strokes, and seek medical attention immediately if you exhibit any of the symptoms.

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