Understanding Stroke Types and Symptoms

This article is designed to help you understand the types and signs of stroke. It may help you detect stroke early to save a life.

There are two major types of stroke: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Both have similar symptoms, and both are life-threatening.

Types of Stroke

Hemorrhagic stroke involves a blockage that actually causes a rupture (or bursting) of a blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood to the brain. This causes the blood to move into areas of the brain other than the blood vessel that was intended. This may in turn cause increased intracranial pressure (or added pressure to the brain).

Ischemic stroke is caused by a clot obstructing blood flow to the brain. If the clot stays in place, pressure continues to rise which may eventually cause a hemorrhagic stroke.

Ischemic stroke can be broken down into two different subcategories: thrombotic and embolic. The biggest difference of these two types is where it actually stops and blocks blood flow.

Embolic stroke is caused when an embolus (blood clot in a vessel)is pumped from the heart and travels to the brain and lodges in a small blood vessel, causing a blockage.

Thrombotic stroke is caused when one or more of the arteries of the brain are blocked with a thrombus (blood clot in an artery).

Also, there are diseases of the vessels that may produce a stroke. These are Large Vessel Thrombosis and Small Vessel Disease (also called Lacunar Infarction).

Large Vessel Thrombosis is caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) followed by a rapid blood clot formation. This causes an interruption in blood flow to the large vessels.

Small Vessel Disease (or Lacunar Infarction) is caused when the blood flow is blocked to a very small arterial vessel. This is very closely linked to hypertension (high blood pressure).

One other stroke worth mentioning is the TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). This is commonly called a “mini stroke”. This is caused by a temporary clot which temporarily disrupts (interrupts) blood flow to the brain. Although this type carries similar symptoms, they are usually temporary (lasting only a short time).

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of stroke can be remembered best with the acronym F.A.S.T. (Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911).

Facial drooping is usually shown on one side of the face. If you’re unsure if you see a facial drooping, have the person smile or stick out his/her tongue. If the smile seems to be more evident on one side or the tongue aims towards one side more than another, move to the next step.

Arm weakness is pretty self-explanatory. If the person shows weakness on one side, have them raise their arms to the same level with their eyes closed. With their eyes closed, they can’t see to correct the difference between arm levels. If there is an evident difference, move to the next step.

Speech Difficulty should be relatively easy to detect. Have the person repeat a simple sentence after you, such as “the birds are singing” or “the sky is pretty today”. If the speech is slurred or if they’re unable to repeat it in a way to understand it, move to the last step and call 911.

Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to, sudden severe headache without a known cause, sudden numbness in arms or legs, sudden confusion, sudden trouble walking around when they otherwise get around on their own, and sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.

These symptoms are usually easy to spot, and you don’t actually have to follow all of these steps before calling 911. If you feel like a person may have had a stroke, call 911 anyway. A stroke is a life-threatening emergency and time is of the essence when trying to save a life..

Wasting time can result in death, but can also result in a lawsuit. If you are a health professional and don’t respond in a timely manner, resulting in permanent damage or death of a person, a family member of that person effected could file suit against you and the company in which you work.

The bottom line is a stroke is serious and should be treated as such. If you see someone experiencing these symptoms, don’t hesitate. You could save a life.