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Createdon: 21 Mar 2023
Updatedon: 03 Apr 2023

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Author: Khoa Tran
Published Mar 21, 2023
Updated Apr 03, 2023

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Strokes

Etymology and Pronunciation

Strokes (strohk)
stric - Old English for "sudden attack" or a "strike"

History

The term was first used in the context of medical conditions in the 14th century, when it was used to describe sudden attacks of paralysis.

The term "stroke" has been used to describe a variety of medical conditions throughout history. In the past, it was often used to refer to any sudden loss of consciousness or movement, including conditions that we now know to be unrelated to strokes, such as seizures or fainting spells.

In the modern medical context, "stroke" specifically refers to a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain, which can cause brain damage and a range of symptoms, such as weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or understanding speech, and vision problems.

Modern Understanding

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or reduced, leading to damage or death of brain cells. This can happen when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a clot (ischemic stroke) or ruptures and causes bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).

Symptoms of a stroke can include sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden vision loss in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination; and sudden severe headache with no known cause. It is important to seek medical attention immediately if any of these symptoms occur, as prompt treatment can help to reduce the damage caused by a stroke and improve the chances of recovery.

Causes

There are two main types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic, and the causes of each type of stroke are slightly different.

Ischemic Stroke

Ischemic strokes are caused by a blockage in an artery that supplies blood to the brain. This blockage can be caused by a blood clot that forms in the artery (known as a thrombotic stroke), or by a blood clot that forms elsewhere in the body and travels to the brain (known as an embolic stroke).

Some of the most common risk factors for ischemic stroke include high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and a family history of stroke. Other risk factors may include atherosclerosis (a buildup of plaque in the arteries), atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm), and certain medical conditions such as sickle cell disease.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by bleeding into the brain tissue, which can occur due to a variety of factors. Some of the most common risk factors for hemorrhagic stroke include high blood pressure, aneurysms (weakened areas in the walls of blood vessels), and other conditions that affect the blood vessels.

In some cases, hemorrhagic strokes can be caused by the use of certain medications, such as blood thinners. In rare cases, they can also be caused by trauma to the head or neck.

Other Risk Factors

In addition to the specific risk factors mentioned above, there are other factors that can increase a person's risk of experiencing a stroke. These may include:

- Age: The risk of stroke increases as a person gets older.
- Gender: Men are more likely than women to experience a stroke, although women are more likely to die from a stroke.
- Race and ethnicity: Certain racial and ethnic groups, including African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, have a higher risk of stroke.
- Family history: People with a family history of stroke are at a higher risk of experiencing a stroke themselves.
- Lifestyle factors: Certain lifestyle factors, such as a diet high in saturated fat, lack of exercise, and heavy alcohol consumption, can increase the risk of stroke.

Treatments

The treatment of strokes depends on the type and severity of the stroke, as well as how quickly the person receives medical attention. There are two main types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic, and the treatment approaches for each type of stroke are different.

Ischemic Stroke Treatment

The most common treatment for ischemic stroke is a drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which is administered intravenously within the first 4.5 hours of the onset of symptoms. tPA works by dissolving the blood clot that is blocking the blood vessel and restoring blood flow to the brain. However, not all patients are eligible for tPA treatment due to certain risks and factors.

In some cases, mechanical thrombectomy may be used to remove the clot directly from the blood vessel. This involves the use of a catheter that is inserted into the artery through a small incision in the groin and guided to the site of the clot. The clot is then removed using a tiny device at the end of the catheter.

Hemorrhagic Stroke Treatment

The treatment of hemorrhagic stroke depends on the cause and severity of the bleeding. If the bleeding is caused by a ruptured aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation (AVM), surgery may be required to repair the damaged blood vessel.

In cases where surgery is not possible, or if the bleeding is mild, medication may be used to reduce the risk of further bleeding and to control blood pressure.

Rehabilitation

After a stroke, rehabilitation is an important part of the recovery process. Rehabilitation can help people regain their physical and cognitive abilities, and reduce the risk of long-term disabilities. This can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, among other types of therapy.

Prevention

The best way to treat strokes is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. This includes managing risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet.

It is also important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke, and to seek medical attention immediately if they occur. Some common symptoms of stroke include:

•	Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
•	Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech
•	Sudden vision loss in one or both eyes
•	Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
•	Sudden severe headache with no known cause

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