Condition: Stroke is also called a cerebrovascular accident, which means there is a problem in the brain’s blood vessels. It can either be a blood clot (called an ischemic stroke) or a bleed (called a hemorrhagic stroke).
Background: Stroke is the main cause of disability in the U.S., especially among older people, men, African Americans and Hispanics.
Risk Factors: Many conditions raise the risk of stroke, especially high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, diabetes, obesity, substance abuse, and a heart condition called atrial fibrillation.
History and Symptoms: A stroke may appear suddenly or over a period of a day or two. The signs of a stroke depend on what part of the brain is affected. Weakness, loss of sensation, problems with vision and speech, and confusion are common. Usually only one side of the face or body is affected.
Physical Exam: The doctor will check your temperature, pulse, breathing, blood pressure, and heart sounds. He will want to find out if you can walk, move your arms and respond to questions.
Diagnostic Process: Many different tests will be done to find out what parts of your brain are not working. Blood tests can help show what may have caused the stroke and what type of stroke you have. CT and MRI scans will show which part of your brain is affected and other imaging tests can show if blood vessels are blocked.
Rehab Management: Treatment for stroke should begin immediately and will depend on the type of stroke. Rehab using a team approach should follow as soon as possible, focusing on the specific problems the patient is having.
Other Resources for Patients and Families: Stroke centers may offer educational programs and other resources to help families support a loved one who has had a stroke.