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What Is a Stroke? Understanding the Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

What Is a Stroke

Strokes can be frightening when it happens to you or a loved one, but what is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when something blocks blood flow to the brain. As a result, the brain cannot receive the necessary oxygen and nutrients.

When this happens, brain cells start to die, typically causing brain damage. Due to its severity, a stroke requires emergency attention as it can cause death if left untreated.

Most people know to call 9-1-1 when someone has a stroke. However, not everyone knows the signs. Understanding what a stroke is and the signs can potentially help you save a life. If you or a loved one has suffered from a stroke, it is important to seek out the care of a neurologist

The Types of Strokes

In the United States, stroke is the fifth most common cause of death, with approximately 800,000 people having strokes every year. 

Strokes come in three forms:

  • Ischemic stroke: The most common stroke where blood clots prevent the brain from receiving oxygen and blood
  • Hemorrhagic stroke: Results from ruptured blood vessels and aneurysms
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA): Occurs when there is inadequate blood flow to the brain for a certain amount of time, often called a ministroke 

Each type of stroke displays similar signs. However, doctors must identify the type of stroke to provide adequate treatment,

Symptoms of a Stroke

To answer, “What is a stroke?” you must understand the signs.

The signs of stroke are typically the same among men and women. If you notice any of the following signs, call 9-1-1 immediately:

  • Sudden face, leg, or arm numbness or weakness (often on one side)
  • Sudden speaking troubles, confusion, or struggle to understand speech
  • Sudden and severe headache
  • Sudden vision impairment 
  • Sudden dizziness, lack of balance or coordination, or difficulty walking

Time is of the essence during a stroke. If you notice any of these symptoms in someone or yourself, call for emergency help immediately.

Act F.A.S.T.

Unfortunately, strokes can cause permanent damage and even death. In order to treat it, doctors must treat the stroke victim within three hours of the initial appearance of symptoms.

If you believe someone is suffering a stroke, the C.D.C. says to act F.A.ST. by performing the following test:

  • Face: Ask them to smile and see if their face droops.
  • Arms: Ask them to raise their arms and see if either arm drifts downward.
  • Speech: Ask them to repeat a phrase and see if their speech slurs.
  • Time: If you notice any of the above, call 9-1-1 for immediate medical assistance.

Treating an Ischemic Stroke

When the arteries narrow or have a blockage, it causes an ischemic stroke. As such, doctors will apply a specific treatment. 

Doctors treat an ischemic stroke by focusing on restoring blood flow to the patient’s brain. Generally, this begins with administering a medication that reduces current clots while preventing new ones. This may include blood thinners, like aspirin, or a TPA (tissue plasminogen activator) injection.

In some cases, doctors will use surgery to reduce stroke risk. For example, a carotid endarterectomy opens the carotid artery and removes plaque to protect the brain.

How a Stroke Doctor Treats a Hemorrhagic Stroke

How a Stroke Doctor Treats a Hemorrhagic Stroke

Hemorrhagic strokes occur when blood leaks into the brain. Treating this type of stroke prioritizes controlling bleeding in the brain and reducing pressure.

Like other types of strokes, doctors start by using medication. Medications used for hemorrhagic strokes control blood pressure, reduce pressure on the brain, and prevent seizures and constricting blood vessels.

Sometimes, the doctor will need to adjust the treatment if the patient takes blood thinners like clopidogrel or warfarin. In this case, the patient will receive medications that counter these effects.

Doctors may also suggest surgery to address blood vessels on the verge of bursting.

For example, if the hemorrhagic stroke results from an aneurysm (a bulge in a blood vessel that could burst), surgeons will often place tiny clamps on the blood vessel or use detachable coils to reduce the aneurysm.

Rehabilitation for Stroke Treatment

Since strokes affect the brain, they can often cause life-altering physical and emotional problems. In many situations, stroke patients will undergo rehabilitation. 

Common therapies for stroke patients include the following:

  • Speech therapy helps patients who struggle with speech (understanding or producing) through practice, communication style changes, and relaxation.
  • Occupational therapy helps patients perform routine tasks like bathing, cooking, and writing. 
  • Support groups bring patients with similar conditions together to help cope with associated mental health concerns like depression. 
  • Physical therapy helps stroke patients improve coordination and movement by staying active.

One of the best ways for stroke patients to cope is by receiving support from family and friends. If you have a loved one who recently suffered a stroke, you can help by providing support with routine activities and ensuring they receive the proper care.

Can You Prevent Strokes?

While strokes are often unpredictable, you can take various steps to prevent them. To prevent the risk of a stroke, you must address the underlying cause. For example, making healthy lifestyle choices can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, such as:

  • Having a healthy diet
  • Avoiding smoking tobacco
  • Not drinking or limiting alcohol consumption
  • Exercising

In addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can also reduce the risk of a stroke by controlling your blood pressure and receiving adequate treatment for any heart disease.

End Your Search for “Stroke Neurologist Near Me” by Finding the Best Stroke Hospital in NYC

Stroke Neurologist Near Me

Have you or a loved one recently suffered from a stroke? Strokes can be traumatic events that impact your entire life and that of your loved ones. Fortunately, the Neurologists at Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. can help. 

Our team consists of board-certified medical professionals passionate about helping their patients. We know that dealing with the after-effects of a stroke can be incredibly challenging, so we strive to give every patient the care and attention they need. 

Whether you are still asking yourself, “What is a stroke?” or “What do you do after a stroke?” our team is here to help. Our neurologists specialize in treating and diagnosing neurological disorders.

Book an appointment with a neurologist today!

About The Author

Picture of Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D. is a highly respected neurologist based in New York City. With over 20 years of experience in the field of neurology, he has earned a reputation as a leading expert in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders and traumatic brain injuries. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Malhotra is also a dedicated educator and researcher. He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed medical journals and has presented his research at national and international conferences.