About This Condition
Stroke is a condition caused by a lack of blood supply to the brain or by hemorrhage (bleeding) within the brain.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, but most strokes are not fatal. Depending on the area of the brain that is damaged, a stroke can cause coma, reversible or irreversible paralysis, speech problems, visual disturbances, and dementia. Factors that increase the risk of certain types of stroke include hypertension, diabetes, elevated levels of high cholesterol or homocysteine, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) of the blood vessels that supply the brain.
Symptoms of stroke include weakness, numbness, or inability to move an arm or leg; sudden and intense headache; severe dizziness or loss of coordination and balance; difficulty with speaking or understanding; and blurred or decreased vision in one or both eyes. People with stroke may also have seizures, vomiting, drooling, and difficulty swallowing. Some people experience temporary warning episodes of neurologic symptoms called transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) before suffering a complete stroke. People experiencing symptoms suggestive of having suffered a stroke or a TIA require immediate (emergency room) medical attention.
Individuals who experience a stroke caused by blockage of blood vessels (ischemic stroke) receive clot-dissolving (thrombolytic) medications, such as recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (Alteplase®) and the anticoagulant heparin. Individuals who have a stroke due to bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke) usually receive a surgical procedure that stops bleeding and repairs blood vessels. After the acute treatment of stroke, doctors often recommend rehabilitation, including physical, speech, and occupational therapy.