What Is A Stroke?

This term can mean different things to different people, and many myths exist about stroke. A stroke occurs when an area of the brain is deprived of blood flow. Just as a heart attack is a lack of blood flow to the heart, a stroke is an interruption in blood flow to the brain. The signs and symptoms of stroke can be similar to other conditions, so the physician will perform diagnostic tests to determine if you are actually having a stroke. ACT scan (computerized tomography) or “CAT scan” is the first step in determining if you have had a stroke and the type of stroke that is occurring.

Types of Stroke

Ischemic Stroke

This is the most common type of stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs when an artery that supplies the brain is greatly narrowed or blocked. This can be caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Plaque in the arteries can break off in small pieces or the rough edges can cause blood clots that eventually break free and become stuck in small blood vessels in the brain.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

Hemorrhagic stroke accounts for only 13 percent of strokes and occurs less frequently than ischemic stroke, but is responsible for 30 percent of all stroke deaths. Instead of a blockage, hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, allowing blood to flow freely into the skull and brain tissue. This blood flow causes damage to the brain cells. Some people have defects in the blood vessels of the brain that make this more likely.

Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA)

TIA is often called a mini stroke. It is a temporary blockage of the artery. The symptoms of the TIA will go away within a twenty-four hour period, depending on which artery is blocked. TIAs leave no permanent brain tissue damage. When TIA is treated in the Emergency Room, it is often treated the same as stroke, because the symptoms can be very similar. TIAs are a warning sign that should be discussed with your physician. More than 30 percent of people who suffer TIAs ultimately have a stroke.

Symptoms of a Stroke

In the event of a stroke, time equals brain cell death. Stroke is a 9-1-1 emergency, yet most people do not take action with symptoms of stroke. Remember, stroke is a “brain attack”. You need to call 9-1-1 for a “brain attack”, just like you would for a heart attack.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness, weakness, tingling or loss of feeling in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side
  • Sudden slurred speech, trouble talking, or problems with understanding others when they speak
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, double vision
  • Sudden loss of balance or falling
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Sudden dizziness or blackout

The Sunrise Health System hospitals — Sunrise, MountainView, and Southern Hills Hospitals — feature the first network of certified stroke centers in the valley.