Ischemic Stroke: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Overview

Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain. A development of fatty deposits within the vessel wall may lead to the blockage. Once the blood vessel is blocked, the brain cells begin to stop working and may die. And high blood pressure is the most important risk factor of this type of stroke.

An ischemic stroke can occur in two ways: embolic stroke (an embolus in either the heart or neck arteries) and thrombotic stroke (a blood clot or thrombus in an artery supplying blood to the brain).

Ischemic stroke accounts for nearly 90 percent of all strokes. Worldwide, nearly 15 million people suffer from strokes each year, with 700,000 people in the U.S.

Causes

An ischemic stroke is possibly caused by the following factors:

  • Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which the arteries in the neck or head become so narrow that blood cells may collect and form blood clots. These blood cells can block the artery where they are formed, or in arteries closer to the brain.

  • Heart diseases

Common heart disease like irregular heartbeat, heart attack, or abnormalities of the heart valves may cause blood clots in the heart.

  • Oral contraceptives

The use of these birth control pills can also increase the risk of blood clot development.

There are other possible causes of an ischemic stroke. For example, they are the use of recreational drugs, trauma to blood vessels of the neck, and blood clotting disorders.

Symptoms

Strokes can be life-threatening. While telling the difference between an ischemic stroke or a hemorrhage stroke is almost impossible, it is urgent to seek professional medical help once one of the following symptoms appears:

  • Face drooping, especially one side of the face drooping or feeling numb
  • Sudden weakness or numbness of arms and legs, especially on one side of the body
  • Speech problems, such as being unable to speak clearly or understand others’ words
  • Trouble walking or dizziness, falling without reasons
  • Vision problems that develop quickly.
  • An unexpected, sudden, and severe headache 
  • Metal problems, such as confusion, dizziness or unsteadiness that comes out rapidly

Diagnosis

The doctor usually begins to diagnose an ischemic stroke by giving a physical examination and asking about the patient’s family history and relative symptoms. Once a stroke is suspected, the doctor may consider the following tests for further diagnosis:

  • Brain imaging tests

The doctor may carry out an MRI or CT scan to review the patient’s cognitive function. ACT scan helps to distinguish ischemic stroke from other brain disorders, and an MRI is used to determine the starting point of this type of stroke.

  • Vascular screening

This technique may be used to detect narrow arteries and blood clots.

  • Electrocardiogram

An Electrocardiogram (ECG) may also be used to assess whether the patient is showing signs of abnormal heart rhythms

  • Electrical activity tests

Tests such as electroencephalogram (EEG) and evoked potential tests are conducted to test the electrical activity of muscles.

  • Echocardiogram

Often, an echocardiogramcould determine if the stroke was embolic and caused by a cardiac issue.

  • Blood flow tests

Blood flow tests include angiography and echocardiography. One is used to check any clots or abnormalities in the patient’s heart, the other is needed to see the location of locked arteries and the severity of the blockage.

Treatment

People of ischemic stroke need to get emergency medical care quickly. Immediate treatments include:

Medications

  • Tissue plasminogen activator, or TPA

It is a kind of drug that targets and rapidly disintegrates clots. It must be used within three hours after the stroke occurs.

  • Other medications to treat brain swelling or pressure after a stroke

Surgeries

  • Thrombectomy

Thrombectomy is a surgical procedure that may also reverse stroke symptoms.

  • Procedures to remove blood vessel blockages

Procedures like carotid artery stenting, and surgical procedures to treat aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations may reduce the risk of ischemic stroke

Ways to Control Risk Factors for a Stroke

  • Quitting smoking
  • Losing weight
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Eliminating illegal drug usage

Keywords: ischemic stroke.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.