A stroke is irregular blood flow to the brain

By Brandie Umar, Executive Director of ContentLast modified: October 06, 2011


Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the elderly and one of the main causes of death in people over the age of 65. Strokes are caused by a disruption in the blood flow to the brain. The brain becomes starved of oxygen which damages the brain cells. This damage to brain cells is what causes disabilities after stroke as the brain controls all movement and speech. Knowing the F.A.S.T test can help identify stroke and get help quickly, reducing the risk of permanent brain damage.


Why does Stroke happen?

Strokes happen when something prevents blood reaching the brain. This is caused by a blockage (ischaemic stroke) or a bleed in the brain (haemorrhagic stroke).


Ischeamic stroke: Blood clots in arteries cause a blockage preventing the blood flow to the brain. The brain begins to starve of oxygen as soon as blood supply is interrupted. 


Hemorrhagic stroke: bleeding or hemorrhaging in the brain is caused by either hypertension or a burst aneurysm. 


What are the symptoms of stroke?

There is a simple test to detect whether someone has suffered a stroke. Remembering the FAST test can help stroke victims receive medical treatment sooner and limit the amount of brain damage caused by stroke.


F: Face - Has the mouth or eye drooped to one side? Can the person smile normally? 

A: Arms -Can the person raise both arms?

S: Speech - Is speech slurred or confused?

T: Time to call for help - If the above symptoms are present, call an ambulance immediately


Other symptoms of stroke include a sudden severe headache; difficulty walking; confusion or disorientation; blurred vision.


T.I.A - Mini-stroke

Often before a stroke, the victim will have suffered a mini stroke or transient ischaemic attack. This occurs when the brain is starved of oxygen but for only a few seconds/minutes. The symptoms are the same as for  stroke, although most people do not realize they have suffered a T.I.A as symptoms last for no more 24 hours. A mini-stroke is a warning sign for a major stroke and medical help should be sought if you think you may have suffered a transient ischaemic attack. 


Treating a stroke

Receiving treatment as soon after the stroke as possible is vital. The longer the brain is starved of oxygen the more brain cells that are damaged. 


Ischeamic stroke is initially treated by removing the blockage to allow the blood flow to return to the brain.

Haemorrhagic stroke usually require surgery to drain the blood and reduce the inter-cranial pressure.

Post-stroke patients often require rehabilitation to improve movement and speech damaged by the stroke.


How does stroke damage the brain? 

The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body; the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. The left side of the brain controls language and speech; the right controls perception and spatial skills, affecting your senses and the ability to judge speed & distance. The effects of stroke on the ability to move will depend on the side of the brain that is damaged


Most victims of a major stoke suffer paralysis of the limbs. This paralysis may be down one side of the body, affect just the arm or just the leg and often paralysis occurs in the facial muscles. If the stroke occurred in the left cortex of the brain, the right side of the body will suffer paralysis; if the stroke occurred on the right side of the brain, the left side of the body is affected. The paralysis after stroke may be temporary or permanent. If the paralysis is permanent, physical rehabilitation can help stroke victims regain some of their motility.


Stroke damage to the left side of the brain effects the ability to communicate. Dysphasia, also known as aphasia, is difficulty using and understanding language - both spoken and written. Speech and language therapy can help improve the communication skills of stroke victims and sometimes the dysphasia completely disappears following treatment.


Behavioral changes are common in victims of right cortex stroke. Victims may be unable to moderate their behavior or many have difficulty judging their abilities. Stroke damage to the right side of the brain can also effect the co-ordination and victims may be unable to complete activities such as tying shoe laces or fasten buttons. 








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This article was written by the medical research team at does not intend for any of the information on this site to be regarded as medical advice - it is meant as a starting point for understanding treatment details and options before contacting a registered, licensed doctor. We advise all patients to seek medical advice from a doctor.
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