If you believe that someone is experiencing a stroke, get emergency help immediately.
A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is reduced or completely stopped, depriving the brain cells of the oxygen they need to function. Cell death can happen within minutes of the beginning of a stroke, and a stroke can cause irreversible damage quickly. Without immediate help, a person can die or permanently lose function in a limb or organ.
There are a few different types of strokes. No matter what type someone is experiencing, getting help quickly is important. If someone can get to the hospital in “the golden hour” (the first hour after symptoms start), they are much more likely to have better outcomes. As the saying goes, “Time lost is brain lost.”
The extensive damage associated with strokes is part of what makes it so important to know precisely what to do in case one happens. Here’s what you need to know about the different types of stroke.
- Ischemic Stroke: This most common kind of stroke occurs when a blood clot or something else stops up an artery supplying oxygen to the brain. This kind of stroke accounts for nearly 87% of strokes, so if you see signs of a stroke, it is most likely an ischemic stroke.
- Hemorrhagic Stroke: With this type of stroke, instead of a blood vessel in the brain losing its blood supply, it ruptures. This has the same effect of denying the brain its vital blood supply but adds other complications that can be deadly all on their own. Internal bleeding and fluid imbalance in the skull are both serious issues that can cause death or impairment if not cared for immediately. A survivor of this type of stroke is at increased risk of future strokes, as the ruptured blood vessel may cause additional scar tissue that will prevent the brain from getting enough oxygenated blood. Hemorrhagic strokes are most commonly caused by high blood pressure and weakened blood vessels. If you have any risk factors for high blood pressure, work with your healthcare provider to reduce them and lower your chances of this type of stroke.
- Brain Stem Strokes: On rare occasions, the stroke can occur in the brain stem instead of in the brain tissues in the head. This can be the most damaging kind of stroke because the brain stem controls all motor functions of the body. The symptoms of this type of stroke can be a bit different, ranging from imbalance to double vision and slurred speech to “locked-in syndrome,” where a patient can only move their eyes.
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): Often referred to as a “mini-stroke,” isn’t truly a stroke at all, but is a temporary set of stroke symptoms that completely resolve, typically because of some type of blood flow blockage that clears. This type of stroke lasts only a few minutes and tends to have less severe or permanent consequences. It is a temporary blockage of blood flow that disappears quickly, most often resolving in 24 hours. But this does not mean that this type of syndrome can be discounted. A TIA is a serious warning sign that the patient is at risk of further, more significant strokes, and needs immediate medical supervision and lifestyle changes.
Strokes vary in cause and nature, but the end result is almost always devastating without immediate attention. Learn the warning signs of a stroke carefully, and act F.A.S.T. If you believe that someone is experiencing one, call for emergency medical attention immediately.