A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a portion of the brain is suddenly interrupted. When this occurs, brain cells die because they no longer receive the oxygen they require to function properly. The symptoms of a stroke include sudden weakness or numbness particularly on one side of the body; trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden loss of balance or coordination; or sudden severe headache. Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel supplying the brain becomes blocked. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when there is bleeding into the brain.
The best way to treat a potential stroke is by preventing it. Patients who are at high risk – such as those with hypertension, diabetes or atrial fiblrillation – are often treated prophylactically with drugs known as antithrombotics or thrombolytics. Acute strokes are treated with drugs that quickly dissolve a clot that will cause an ischemic stroke or by stopping the bleeding that can cause a hemorrhagic stroke. Post-stroke rehabilitation helps individuals overcome disabilities that result from stroke damage.
Hemiplegia, paralysis of one side of the body, is a common result from a severe stroke. Unilateral weakness without paralysis, hemiparesis, is a less severe disability resulting from a stroke. Numbness is another stroke complication. Stroke patients may have problems understanding or forming speech. They may also experience problems with judgment, memory and learning and may suffer from depression. Recurrent strokes occur in about 25% of patients who have suffered an initial stroke.
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