What is stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to the brain. Without a blood supply, brain cells can be damaged or destroyed and will be unable to perform their function for example, if a stroke damages the part of the brain that controls how limbs move, limb movement will be affected. The brain also controls how we think, learn, feel and communicate. A stroke can affect these mental processes. A stroke is sudden and the effects on the body immediate.

The medical term for stroke is cerebral infarction. An infarct is an area of dead tissue caused by lack of oxygen and blood supply.

What cause's stroke?

There are two main causes of stroke

Ischaemic Stroke

The most common type of stroke occurs when blood vessels in the brain become narrowed or blocked, cutting off the blood flow to brain cells. This is called an ischaemic stroke. Over 80% of all strokes are ischaemic. This may be caused by:

  1. A cerebral thrombosis, when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in an artery going to the brain.
  2. Embolic stroke, when a wandering clot, air bubble or fat globule (embolus) is formed elsewhere (usually in the heart or neck arteries) is carried in the blood stream and clog a blood vessel in or leading to the brain.
  3. A blockage in the tiny blood vessels deep within the brain (lacunar infarct)

Hemorrhagic Stroke

This is caused by a bleed when a blood vessel bursts causing bleeding (haemorrhage) into the brain. The main causes are:

  1. Intracerebral haemorrhage, when a blood vessel bursts within the brain
  2. Subarachnoid haemorrhage, when a blood vessel on the surface of the brain bleeds into the area between the brain and the skull (subarachnoid space).

How do I know if I am having a stroke?

A stroke is a medical emergency and the sooner you get help the more doctors can do to restore the blood flow to your brain and prevent further or permanent damage TIME IS BRAIN.

If you have any of the following symptoms call for an ambulance on 999 or 112 immediately:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body
  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden slurred speech, loss of speech or difficulty finding words or understanding what others are saying
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Sudden unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or poor co-ordination especially along with any other symptoms

What is a TIA?

A TIA is a Transient Ischaemic Attack. This is a warning sign of a stroke and is commonly of short duration. This should not be ignored as people who have a TIA have a 33% risk of developing a full blown stroke within 5 years. It is a transient stroke that lasts only a few minutes. It occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is briefly intercepted causing the area supplied by the brain artery affected to be unable to perform its function i.e. limb movement, but there is enough blood supply to keep the brain cells alive so that when adequate blood supply is restored no permanent damage is done.

Symptoms of TIA are the same as that of a stroke but most last for under an hour although they may persist up to 24 hours. Because there is no way to tell whether symptoms are from acute stroke or a TIA, a person should assume that all stroke like symptoms are a medical emergency and yo9u should not wait to see if they go away. Dial 999 or 112.

What are the cause's of TIA?

A TIA is usually caused by a tiny blood clot that becomes stuck in a small blood vessel artery in the brain. This blocks the blood flow and part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. The affected part of the brain is without oxygen for just a few minutes and soon recovers. This s a because the blood clot either breaks up quickly or nearby blood vessels are able to provide necessary blood flow.

How can TIA be managed ?

The goal of TIA management is to prevent a future stroke. St. James’s Hospital stroke service operates a daily TIA clinic Mon – Fri 2 – 4pm. We will see all patient referred either from GP, A&E or self referrals from patients previously seen by our service by prior appointment. We will try to see all emergency referrals within 24hours.

Our Team

in alphabetical order

Professor Joseph Harbison
Lead Consultant Stroke Physician and Senior Geriatricia ...

Ms Lisa Masterson
Administrator, Stroke Service

Dr Mary Nash

Ms Suzanne Walsh
Stroke Nurse Specialist

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