There are two types of stroke, both of which injure neurons in the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a rupture in the artery. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage in the artery. Each type has a different set of causes, symptoms and treatments.
A hemorrhagic stroke is the less frequent of the two types of stroke. Only about 13-15% of strokes are hemorrhagic. “This type of stroke happens when the artery in the brain ruptures instead of blocks and there is blood leakage in the brain,” said Dr. Cesar Sanchez Padron, a Marshfield Clinic Health System neurohospitalist.
“For both types of strokes, symptoms can be different based on what part of the brain is affected,” he explained. For hemorrhagic strokes, common symptoms are headaches, sleepiness, altered consciousness, difficulty waking up or staying conscious, weakness, numbness and face drooping.
An ischemic stroke is the much more common type of stroke. About 85-87% of strokes are ischemic. “This type of stroke occurs when there is a blockage of an artery that causes a lack of blood flow to the brain,” Dr. Sanchez Padron said. “This can lead to brain damage.”
Ischemic strokes can be further broken down into thrombotic or embolic strokes. In a thrombotic stroke, the symptoms develop slowly and gradually increase and weakness will get worse. On the other hand, embolic strokes come on suddenly. Ischemic strokes do not often come with symptoms of unconsciousness.
“To know what type of stroke a patient has and how to treat it, we can sometimes tell from the symptoms that they have,” Dr. Sanchez Padron said. “We will often do a CT scan to tell for sure. It is very important to find the reason for the stroke to choose the right treatment methods.”
Dr. Sanchez Padron explained that for ischemic strokes, a doctor can break up the clots that caused the stroke with a medication called thrombolytic. Or they take out the clot with a procedure called a thrombectomy. For a hemorrhagic stroke, surgery is often required to fix the bleeding and make sure the pressure on the brain is not too high.
Long-term treatments for stroke patients include taking blood thinners to prevent future clots or medications to manage cholesterol levels.
Signs of a stroke
While there are many symptoms that could indicate a stroke, the most common can be summed up in the acronym, BE FAST. Look for problems with Balance, Eyes, Face, Arm weakness, Speech slurring and remember that Time wasted is brain damage.
“If you think you or a loved one might be having a stroke, it is critical to get to an emergency center,” Dr. Sanchez Padron said. “The sooner, the better. If you have any concerns, call 911.”