A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in part of the brain becomes weak and bursts open, causing blood to leak into the brain. Some people have defects in the blood vessels of the brain that make this more likely.
The symptoms of stroke depend on what part of the brain is damaged. In some cases, a person may not know that he or she has had a stroke.
Symptoms usually develop suddenly and without warning. Or, symptoms may occur on and off for the first day or two. Symptoms are usually most severe when the stroke first happens, but they may slowly get worse.
A headache may occur, especially if the stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain. The headache:
Starts suddenly and may be severe
Occurs when you are lying flat
Wakes you up from sleep
Gets worse when you change positions or when you bend, strain, or cough
Other symptoms depend on how severe the stroke is and what part of the brain is affected. Symptoms may include:
A stroke is a medical emergency. Immediate treatment can save lives and reduce disability. Call 911 or your local emergency number or seek urgent medical care at the first signs of a stroke.
It is very important for people who are having stroke symptoms to get to a hospital as quickly as possible. If the stroke is caused by a blood clot, a clot-busting drug may be given to dissolve the clot.
Most of the time, patients must reach a hospital within 3 hours after symptoms begin. Some people may be able to receive these drugs for up to 4 - 5 hours after symptoms begin.
Treatment depends on how severe the stroke was and what caused it. Most people who have a stroke need to stay in a hospital.
TREATMENT IN THE HOSPITAL
Clot-busting drugs (thrombolytic therapy) may be used if the stroke is caused by a blood clot. This medicine breaks up blood clots and helps bring back blood flow to the damaged area. However, not everyone can get this type of medicine.
For these drugs to work, a person must be seen and treatment must begin within 3 hours of when the symptoms first started. A CT scan must be done to see whether the stroke is from a clot or from bleeding.
If the stroke is caused by bleeding instead of clotting, clot-busting drugs (thrombolytics) can cause more bleeding.
Other treatments depend on the cause of the stroke:
Blood thinners such as heparin or warfarin (Coumadin) may be used to treat strokes due to blood clots. Aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix) may also be used.
Other medicine may be needed to control symptoms such as high blood pressure.
In some situations, a special stroke team and skilled radiologists may be able to use angiography to highlight the clogged blood vessel and open it up.
If bleeding occurred, surgery is often needed to remove blood from around the brain and to fix damaged blood vessels.
Nutrients and fluids may be needed, especially if the person has trouble swallowing. These may be given through a vein (intravenously) or a feeding tube in the stomach (gastrostomy tube). Swallowing trouble may be temporary or permanent.
Physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and swallowing therapy will all begin in the hospital.
The goal of treatment after a stroke is to help the patient recover as much function as possible and prevent future strokes.
The recovery time and need for long-term treatment is different for each person. Problems moving, thinking, and talking often improve in the weeks to months after a stroke. A number of people who have had a stroke will keep improving in the months or years after the stroke.
You may recover completely, or have some permanent loss of function.
Over half of people who have a stroke are able to function and live at home. Other people are not able to care for themselves.
If treatment with clot-busting drugs is successful, the symptoms of a stroke may go away. However, patients often do not get to the hospital soon enough to receive these drugs, or they cannot take these drugs because of a health condition.
People who have a stroke due to a blood clot (ischemic stroke) have a better chance of surviving than those who have a stroke due to bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).
The risk for a second stroke is highest during the weeks or months after the first stroke. Then the risk begins to decrease.
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Reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.