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Diseases » Stroke » Introduction


Stroke: Introduction

Stroke, also called brain attack or cerebral infarction, is a very serious condition in which the brain is not receiving enough oxygen to function properly. Stroke often results in permanent serious complications and disability and is a common cause of death. It is the second leading cause of death worldwide and the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association.

The brain requires a steady supply of oxygen in order to pump blood effectively to all of the body. Oxygen is supplied to the brain in the blood that flows through arteries. If an artery that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked or ruptured or begins to leak, the portion of the brain that gets its oxygen-rich blood from that specific artery becomes damaged. This injury can become permanent within minutes and result in the death of the affected brain tissue. Medically this is called cerebral necrosis.

There are two types of strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs when a brain artery has been blocked. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery ruptures or leaks.

There are primary causes of strokes: cerebral thrombosis, cerebral embolism and cerebral hemorrhage.

Stroke cause by cerebral thrombosis is one cause of ischemic stroke and is the result of a build-up of plaque and inflammation in the arteries, called atherosclerosis. This process narrows the brain arteries and lowers the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches the brain tissue. Arteries narrowed by atherosclerosis are more likely to develop a blood clot that completely blocks blood flow to an area of the brain. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include having high cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension.

Stroke cause by cerebral embolism is another cause of ischemic stroke. It is caused by clot that forms in another part of the body and travels in the bloodstream to a brain artery and blocks the flow of blood to the brain. Stroke caused by cerebral hemorrhage occurs when a brain artery breaks or leaks blood into the surrounding brain tissue.

The extent of the damage done to the brain and resulting symptoms of a stroke vary depending on the cause of stroke, the area or areas affected, and how much time passes before stroke is treated. Complications of stroke include permanent neurological damage, disability and death. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of stroke.

Risk factors for stroke include a having hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. Other risk factors include being of African-American ancestry, male, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, smoking and having a family history of heart disease or stroke. Having a brain aneurysm puts a person at an extreme risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

Making a diagnosis of stroke includes completing a complete medical evaluation and history and physical examination, including a neurological examination. This is often done in an emergency room.

Diagnostic testing includes imaging tests, such as a CT or, MRI and cerebral angiogram of the brain. A cerebral angiogram reveals obstructed or narrowed arteries in the brain and can show blood flow.

A battery of other tests are also performed to evaluate for other conditions that commonly occur with a stroke, such as heart disease and cardiac arrhythmia.

It is possible that a diagnosis of stroke can be missed or delayed because sometimes the symptoms may be mild and attributed to other conditions. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of stroke.

If caught early, some strokes can be successfully treated before the development of permanent brain damage and complications. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of stroke. ...more »

Stroke symptoms: There are various causes of stroke-like symptoms including stroke, transient ischemic attacks (mini-strokes) and several other serious conditions. Stroke is a ... more about Stroke symptoms.

Stroke: A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the part of the brain is suddenly interrupted (ischemic) or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling ... more about Stroke.

Stroke: Serious brain event from bleeding or blood clots. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Stroke is available below.

Stroke: Symptoms

Symptoms of a stroke differ depending on a variety of factors, including the cause and the type and size of the area of the brain that is affected. In some cases, symptoms may be mild and only include weakness, dizziness or headache. Symptoms such as these may also be warning symptoms of an impending stroke. This is called a transient ischemic attack.

...more symptoms »

Stroke: Treatments

The most effective stroke treatment plan uses a multifaceted approach. This includes preventive care aimed at minimizing the risk factors for having a stroke or a recurrent stroke. Preventive measures include regular medical care to monitor and address such risk factors as high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, diabetes, hypertension and excessive alcohol ...more treatments »

Stroke: Misdiagnosis

In some cases a diagnosis of stroke may be overlooked or delayed because symptoms of stroke or of a transient ischemic attack may be mild or vague. Symptoms may be attributed to such conditions as aging or migraine headache. In addition, some people delay seeking medical care, even for sudden dramatic symptoms, for a variety of reasons, such as thinking it is only a "spell" and that it ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Stroke

Treatments for Stroke

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Stroke:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Stroke?

Stroke: Related Patient Stories

Stroke: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Stroke.

Alternative Treatments for Stroke

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Stroke may include:

Types of Stroke

  • Ischemic stroke - from reduced blood flow to a brain area.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke - from bleeding in the brain.
  • Right hemisphere stroke - a right brain stroke affecting the left side of the body.
  • Left hemisphere stroke - a left brain stroke affecting the right side of the body.
  • Cerebellar stroke - a stroke occurring in the cerebellum
  • more types...»

Diagnostic Tests for Stroke

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Stroke: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Stroke:

Causes of Stroke

More information about causes of Stroke:

Disease Topics Related To Stroke

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Stroke:

Stroke: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Stroke

Unnecessary hysterectomies due to undiagnosed bleeding disorder in women: The bleeding disorder called Von Willebrand's disease is quite common in women, but more »

Undiagnosed stroke leads to misdiagnosed aphasia: BBC News UK reported on a man who had been institutionalized and treated for mental illness because more »

Alzheimer's disease over-diagnosed: The well-known disease of Alzheimer's disease is often over-diagnosed. Patients tend to assume that any memory loss or more »

Dementia may be a drug interaction: A common scenario in aged care is for a patient to show mental decline to dementia. Whereas this can, of course, occur due to various medical conditions, such as a stroke or more »

Tremor need not be Parkinson's disease: There is the tendency to believe that any tremor symptom, or shakiness, means Parkinson's disease. The reality is that there are various more »

Mild traumatic brain injury often remains undiagnosed: Although the symptoms of severe brain injury are hard to miss, it is less clear for milder injuries, or even those causing a mild more »

MTBI misdiagnosed as balance problem: When a person has symptoms such as vertigo or dizziness, a diagnosis of brain injury may go overlooked. This more »

Rare diseases misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease: A rare genetic disorder is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease for men in their 50's. The disease Fragile more »

Brain pressure condition often misdiagnosed as dementia: A condition that results from an excessive pressure of CSF within the brain is often misdiagnosed. It may more »

Post-concussive brain injury often misdiagnosed: A study found that soldiers who had suffered a concussive injury in battle often were misdiagnosed on their return. A variety of symptoms more »

Children with migraine often misdiagnosed: A migraine often fails to be correctly diagnosed in pediatric patients. These patients are not the typical migraine sufferers, but more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see symptoms of multiple sclerosis). See more »

Stroke: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Stroke

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Stroke:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Stroke, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Stroke: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Stroke: Animations

Prognosis for Stroke

Prognosis for Stroke: Unpredictable. About 20% of patients die in hospital. Others have complications of stroke.

Research about Stroke

Visit our research pages for current research about Stroke treatments.

Prevention of Stroke

Prevention information for Stroke has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Stroke.

Statistics for Stroke

Stroke: Broader Related Topics

Stroke Message Boards

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User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Stroke, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Stroke

NINDS Stroke Information Page: NINDS (Excerpt)

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the part of the brain is suddenly interrupted (ischemic) or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into the spaces surrounding the brain cells (hemorrhagic). (Source: excerpt from NINDS Stroke Information Page: NINDS)

Stroke: NWHIC (Excerpt)

A stroke is sometimes called a "brain attack." A stroke can injure the brain like a heart attack can injure the heart. Stroke is the result of cerebrovascular diseaseódisease of the blood vessels in the brain. (Source: excerpt from Stroke: NWHIC)

Stroke Prevention and Treatment -- Age Page -- Health Information: NIA (Excerpt)

A stroke (sometimes called a "brain attack") happens when blood circulation to the brain fails. A few minutes without oxygen and important nutrients from the blood can damage or kill affected brain cells. Sometimes cell damage can be repaired and some lost skills regained. However, the death of brain cells is permanent. (Source: excerpt from Stroke Prevention and Treatment -- Age Page -- Health Information: NIA)

Definitions of Stroke:

A sudden, nonconvulsive loss of neurologic function due to an ischemic or hemorrhagic intracranial vascular event. In general, cerebrovascular accidents are classified by anatomic location in the brain, vascular distribution, etiology, age of the affected individual, and hemorrhagic vs. nonhemorrhagic nature. (From Adams et al., Principles of Neurology, 6th ed, pp777-810) - (Source - Diseases Database)

(sports) the act of swinging or striking at a ball with a club or racket or bat or cue or hand; "it took two strokes to get out of the bunker"; "a good shot require good balance and tempo"; "he left me an almost impossible shot" - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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