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Strokes terrify many people, and for good reason. These neuro-cardiovascular events can result in severe disability and a permanent loss of cognition and function.
However, not all strokes share the same underlying triggers, and prognosis varies depending on severity and variety. What are the three different types of stroke, and what are the symptoms, causes and treatments for each? Most importantly, can you prevent them?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the three different stroke types consist of ischemic, hemorrhagic and transient ischemic attacks (TIA) or mini-strokes.
Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel to the brain becomes obstructed, typically due to a clot. This type makes up 87% of all strokes.
The primary cause of ischemic stroke occurs when fatty deposits lining vessel walls create one of two types of obstruction:
Some people suffer “silent strokes,” where blood clots interrupt blood flow to the brain without causing immediate and substantial damage. However, these incidents increase the risk that an individual will have a more debilitating attack down the road.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures in your brain. These events are also called intracerebral hemorrhages, and they cause severe symptoms, including the following:
Some people with rare migraine variants, such as hemiplegic migraine, experience similar symptoms, although they make a full recovery. You must seek medical attention if you suspect this or any stroke type. Without an evaluation, it’s impossible to differentiate the two sometimes, and migraines increase the risk of stroke.
A TIA is a temporary period of symptoms akin to those seen in stroke. These attacks are similar to hemiplegic migraines, although they typically last only a few minutes in TIAs.
However, their short-lived nature doesn’t make them less severe. Approximately one out of three individuals who suffer a TIA eventually go on to have a full-blown stroke.
Researchers believe that TIAs occur when blood clots get stuck temporarily, then quickly pass through, freeing the blood supply. If you suspect a TIA, please seek immediate medical care.
Of all the three stroke types, the prognosis for TIAs is most favorable. However, those who have one of these events should make lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight and exercising to reduce the risk of future clots.
It’s critical to seek immediate medical treatment for strokes. Currently, the only nonsurgical way to remove the clot and restore function is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Doctors must administer this medication within three hours of symptoms appearing for best results.
Tragically, only 3-5% of patients receive this medication in time to prevent severe damage. Otherwise, they must rely on surgical devices for clot-retrieval, which requires extensive intervention from medical staff. Comprehensive stroke centers have microcatheters that can administer tPA directly to the thrombus, but many patients lack access to such facilities.
Another complication is that tPA should not be used in cases of hemorrhagic stroke. In these incidents, patients may need surgery to control bleeding and relieve pressure inside the skull.
After the immediate danger passes, stroke patients often undergo lengthy rehabilitation. While some individuals eventually recover full or nearly complete functionality, others experience a permanent loss of cognition or bodily function.
Since current stroke treatments leave much to be desired, it’s better to take action to prevent them. While you can’t control factors such as your genetic makeup or family history, there are things you can manage:
Now that you know about the three different types of stroke, you can take action to minimize your risk. Recognizing symptoms and seeking immediate medical care are keys to recovery if one does occur.