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A sudden circulatory disorder of the brain. The brain no longer has sufficient supplies of oxygen and nutrients, which disrupts its functioning. If this lack of oxygen and nutrients lasts for longer, brain tissue starts to die off.
A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or “mini-stroke” involves temporary disruption to blood supply, the resulting symptoms of which usually subside after a few hours.
A disruption in blood supply to the brain (clot), which indicates an ischaemic stroke, is not the same as a bleed in the brain, which is also referred to as a haemorrhagic stroke. You cannot tell from the symptoms whether an ischaemic or haemorrhagic stroke has occurred. Massive bleeding increases blood pressure inside the skull, which can quickly become fatal.
Strokes are caused either by a blockage in an artery supplying the brain (ischaemic stroke) or bleeding in the brain. Such a blockage is more likely with arteriosclerosis (blocked blood vessels). A TIA often precedes a stroke, whereby blood flow is already temporarily disrupted but the artery in question supplying the brain is still clear. TIAs are a warning sign of an ischaemic stroke. Atrial fibrillation is a relatively common cause of strokes. This is a type of irregular heartbeat, whereby blood clots form in an atrium of the heart and then travel into the brain arteries as embolisms and cause obstruction there. Summary of causes:
The risk factors include all the causes of arteriosclerosis. In rare cases, hormonal contraception can cause stroke, particularly if additional risk factors, such as smoking or obesity, are present. Summary of risk factors:
Strokes are characterised by sudden failure of brain function. This may manifest as paralysis, sensory disturbances, hearing difficulties, speech impairment or loss of consciousness. Summary of symptoms:
Strokes are an emergency and require immediate medical treatment, even if the symptoms subside again. The time period within which treatment is provided has a major effect on survival and regression of the paralysis. Time is brain!
Treatment depends on the underlying causes.
Treatment of risk-factor conditions is also important: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation. As many risk factors as possible need to be eliminated by: stopping smoking, losing weight exercising regularly.