What is a Stroke - Maple Community Services

What is a Stroke?

Stroke NDIS

What is a Stroke?

A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is a medical emergency that is caused by either a blockage or a leak in our brain's blood vessels. If you, or anyone you know shows symptoms of a stroke, it’s really important to get medical help immediately, since early intervention can significantly reduce brain damage and improve the chances of recovery.

Symptoms of a stroke

If you or anyone around you suddenly experiences one or more of these symptoms, they may be having a stroke:

  • Trouble speaking, understanding what others are saying, slurring words or experiencing confusion.
  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Trouble walking, experiencing dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • A headache that might cause vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness.
  • Blurred, blackened or double vision in one or both eyes.
  • Difficulty swallowing.

If you think someone might be having a stroke, the best thing to do is to think F.A.S.T:

  • Face: Try to smile, is one side of the face drooping?
  • Arms: Lift both arms, is one arm unable to rise?
  • Speech: Do you notice any slurred or strange speech?
  • Time: Prompt treatment is crucial, call 000 immediately!

If you believe this test is confirmation of a stroke, call emergency services and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if these symptoms come and go or they disappear completely they could still be experiencing a minor, mini or silent stroke, watch the person carefully while you wait for emergency services to arrive.

What is a Mini Stroke?

Sometimes, symptoms indicating a stroke may come and go quickly. This means it could be a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini stroke. A TIA is caused by a temporary decrease in blood supply to the brain and may only last as little as five minutes.Thankfully, a TIA on its own doesn’t cause permanent damage. However, a TIA (or mini stroke) can sometimes occur as a warning. If you’ve had a TIA, you may have a partially blocked or narrowed artery leading to the brain. Roughly 1 in 3 people who experience a TIA eventually experience a stroke, about half of which happen within a year of the TIA.

What are the types of stroke?

There are two types of stroke, one is more common and the other is more dangerous:

Ischemic Stroke

An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke and occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked, interrupted or reduced. When blood flow is blocked our brain tissue no longer receives the oxygen and nutrients it needs from the blood to function, this causes brain cells to die within minutes.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

A Hemorrhagic stroke is less common but more severe in nature. It refers to a sudden bleed on the brain from a leaking or ruptured blood vessel. The bleed causes pressure on surrounding areas of the brain which can damage or destroy affected tissue. 


What causes an Ischemic stroke?

Ischemic strokes are caused by a blockage or narrowed blood vessel in the brain. These blockages typically occur due to the formation of blood clots within the blood vessel. There are two main causes of ischemic strokes:


Thrombotic strokes occur when cholesterol or fatty deposits build up as plaques inside the arteries. As these plaques grow larger they can form a clot. When a blood clot (thrombus) forms in a blood vessel that leads to the brain this is a condition known as atherosclerosis or large artery disease and the blockage can lead to a thrombotic stroke.


Embolic strokes occur when a blood clot forms in a different part of the body, often the heart, and travels through the bloodstream until it becomes lodged in a narrower brain artery and causes a blockage.


Various factors can increase the risk of ischemic strokes, such as:


  • High blood pressure,

  • High cholesterol,

  • Smoking,

  • Diabetes,

  • Sedentary lifestyle,

  • Obesity,

  • Atrial fibrillation – an irregular heart rhythm,

  • Family history of stroke or cardiovascular disease.

What causes a Hemorrhagic stroke?

The rupture or leakage of a blood vessel in the brain can cause a hemorrhagic stroke, this can happen for two main reasons:


Intracerebral haemorrhage (ICH) strokes occur when a blood vessel within the brain ruptures and leaks blood directly into the brain tissue. Hypertension or high blood pressure is the most common cause of intracerebral haemorrhage, as it weakens blood vessel walls overtime and makes them more susceptible to rupture.


Subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) strokes occur when there is bleeding into the space between the brain and the thin tissues covering it, known as the subarachnoid space. This type of stroke is most commonly caused by the rupture of an aneurysm; these are weak bulging spots on a blood vessel wall.


Various factors can increase the risk of hemorrhagic strokes, such as:


  • High blood pressure (hypertension),

  • Aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs),

  • Blood thinning medication,

  • Head trauma or injury,

  • Drug use – such as amphetamines or cocaine,

  • Structural abnormalities of blood vessels.


Early detection and treatment of conditions that contribute to the formation of blood clots or weakened vessels are essential to stroke prevention.

What is a silent stroke?

A silent stroke can occur without any, or very minimal symptoms that can be mistaken for a less-threatening condition. Someone who experiences a silent stroke may not even realise they have suffered one without receiving a brain scan such as an MRI or a CRT scan. Only then can small white spots be detected, which indicate the presence of lesions.


Silent stroke symptoms are similar to those of a normal stroke but are often mistaken as signs of ageing:


  • Sudden lack of balance,

  • Brief fainting,

  • Problems with speech,

  • Loss of vision, strength and sensation,

  • Temporary loss of muscle movement.


For that reason, it’s important to take any of these symptoms seriously and have them checked by a medical professional. 


If you, or a loved one have experienced a stroke, our Stroke Specialists can work with you to significantly enhance your quality of life. Through tailored support, we aim to provide comprehensive care, promote independence, and help you adapt to any lasting changes.


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