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When blood flow is impaired, your brain cells lack the oxygen they need for nourishment. If lacking oxygen, brain cells can be permanently damaged in a matter of seconds. After a few hours without oxygen, brain cells will die. The section of the brain containing the damaged or dead cells can temporarily or permanently cease to function.
Introduction
 
A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, is a serious emergency medical condition that occurs when blood supply to the brain is cut off or reduced for a short while. Your brain is the command center of your body and controls all your life-sustaining functions and the way you think, feel, and act. A lack of oxygen-rich blood to the brain causes damage or death to brain cells. Affected cells can briefly or even permanently lose function. Lack of oxygen in the brain can also cause coma or death.  
 
Call for emergency medical services immediately if you or someone else is having a stroke. Immediate treatment is paramount, ideally within the first three hours of the onset of symptoms. Do not dismiss your condition even if symptoms desist and make sure to seek emergency medical treatment, which will reduce your risk of disability and potentially save your life.
 
Causes
 
When blood flow is impaired, your brain cells lack the oxygen they need for nourishment. If lacking oxygen, brain cells can be permanently damaged in a matter of seconds. After a few hours without oxygen, brain cells will die. The section of the brain containing the damaged or dead cells can temporarily or permanently cease to function. It can even cause death.
 
A transient ischemic attack occurs when blood supply is briefly interrupted, and is known as a mini stroke. A transient ischemic attack lasts for a few minutes and is commonly caused by blood clots and plaque buildup. Transient ischemic attacks are an indicator that you are at risk for a more serious type of stroke. An ischemic stroke, which is the most common type of stroke, occurs when an artery is blocked. Plaque buildup in the arteries is the main cause of blood clots and ischemic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery wall bursts and leaks blood. A hemorrhagic stroke compresses and damages brain tissue when an artery bursts and pools blood, increasing pressure inside of the brain. Long-term high blood pressure is the most common cause of hemorrhagic stroke.
 
Symptoms
 
Symptoms of stroke can begin suddenly and may be more severe at the onset of a stroke. Symptoms may gradually worsen or fluctuate during the first few days. Call for medical attention even if your symptoms go away. A stroke is only considered complete when your symptoms stop worsening. 
 
Symptoms include severe headache, the feeling of weakness or paralysis in your leg, arm, or face, numbness, tingling, difficulty walking, loss of coordination and balance, dizziness, fatigue, and loss of consciousness.
 
You may experience blurred vision, loss of vision, double vision, uncontrollable eye movements, drooping eyelids, drooling, and difficulty swallowing.
 
You may have difficulty thinking, remembering, talking, and understanding what others are saying. You may feel confused. A stroke can also trigger behavioral or personality changes like feeling agitated, depressed, or apathetic.
 
Diagnosis
 
Call an ambulance immediately if you experience the symptoms of a stroke. It is crucial to get treatment to reduce your risk of disability and death.
 
Your doctor will examine you and order tests to determine the type, cause, location, and severity of your stroke. Your doctor will also test your blood to check for abnormal blood clotting conditions and immune conditions. 
 
Since certain areas of the brain are in charge of certain functions, your doctor will look for signs that an area of your brain was affected by the stroke. A neurological evaluation will determine how the nerves in your brain and body are communicating. The coordination, sensation, strength, and movement of your muscles will also be tested. Your doctor will ask you simple questions and give simple commands to assess your cognitive skills. Your vision and eye movements will also be examined. The doctor will listen to your heartbeat to check for abnormalities or signs of atrial fibrillation.
 
Imaging tests such as a computed tomography scan or magnetic resonance imaging scan can help identify the location and severity of your stroke, as well as determine if it was caused by bleeding or a clot.
 
Treatment
 
Call an ambulance immediately if you experience symptoms of a stroke. Immediately medical attention is necessary to sustain life, stabilize your condition, and prevent death.
 
If a clot caused your stroke, you will be given thrombolytic medication to break up the clots. However, this medication has strict criteria for its administration and should be given within the first three hours of when symptoms began. It can save your life and prevent the possibility of disability. If you are not a candidate for thrombolytic medication, you may be given other blood thinning medications.
 
If bleeding in the brain resulted in the stroke, your vital signs and pressure in the brain will be carefully and continuously monitored. The emergency room team will provide medical treatments to control blood sugar levels, blood pressure, swelling in the brain, and seizures. Sometimes, it may be necessary to repair blood vessels, remove excess blood in the brain, and repair a brain aneurysm through surgery.
 
In some cases, a stroke will result in a coma, which is a condition where the patient is unresponsive to stimuli and unconscious. Some people may need a respirator because they cannot breathe on their own. Others may remain alert, but will be very medically fragile. In most cases, patients will be taken to the intensive care unit of a hospital.
 
Recovery will vary, depending on location and severity of the stroke, affected brain area, condition of your nervous system and brain, and other medical conditions.
 
Typically, it takes a long while to recover after a stroke. The first year holds the fastest progress. In many cases, people never fully recover from a stroke. However, they can lead happy and full lives with adjustments and assistance.
 
Prevention
 
Seek emergency medical care immediately if you think you are having a stroke. Prompt treatment is important and can save your life and reduce risk of disability.
 
Eliminate controllable risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. Maintain a healthy weight and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Quit smoking, alcohol, and illegal drugs.
 
Am I At Risk
 
Risk factors for stroke include hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol, family history of stroke, diabetes, previous strokes, illegal drugs, sedentary lifestyle, medications such as birth control pills, pregnancy, head injury or trauma, and being 65 years or older.
 
Complications
 
There are many complications that are associated with stroke, such as disability, coma, and death. Having one stroke increases your risk for future strokes. 
 
After having a stroke, you may need supervision and have to depend on others to help you. Several parts of the body may be affected by functional impairments that can be temporary, permanent, partial, or full.
 
A stroke can affect the way muscles move and work, cause partial or complete paralysis, affect your vision, affect the way you communicate, and affect your sense of taste and smell. In many cases, people will experience a loss of bowel and bladder control; however, this condition is usually temporary.