Stroke, Silent Strokes, Mini-Strokes: Know The Differences
You know that a stroke can be devastating. But did you know that there’s more than one kind of stroke? Pegasus caregivers in Moorpark and elsewhere explain the differences between strokes, silent strokes, and mini-strokes.
Brain cells quickly die if there’s an interruption in the flow of blood to them. Dead brain cells result in a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), the medical name for a stroke.
The two main types of strokes are:
- Hemorrhagic – a blood vessel ruptures or leaks blood. An aneurysm, an arteriovenous malformation, which is abnormal clusters of blood vessels, trauma, and specific medications, are among the causes.
- Ischemic – a blood vessel is blocked. This is the most common type of stroke. An artery may be blocked by a clot or other substances in the bloodstream, or it may be narrowed. About one-fourth of ischemic strokes are cryptogenic, which means the cause is unknown.
Either type of stroke is a medical emergency that can result in death if not treated immediately.
A stroke can sometimes occur in a brain stem. It can be challenging to diagnose. In the most devastating cases, it causes “locked-in syndrome,” paralyzing survivors so that they can only move their eyes.
Mini And Silent Strokes
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is commonly called a mini-stroke. As the name implies, it is short-lived. The blood flow is blocked for a few minutes rather than for long periods.
Because the initial TIA symptoms are the same as an ischemic stroke, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention. A mini-stroke usually doesn’t damage brain cells. It is, however, a warning that you have a blockage that puts you at risk for a dangerous ischemic stroke.
Depending on where a stroke damages or kills brain cells, individuals lose specific abilities. But some strokes damage areas in the brain that don’t control vital functions. The lack of noticeable symptoms means that the person isn’t aware that they’ve had a silent stroke.
The damage from repeated silent strokes is permanent and cumulative. Cognitive ability decreases, and similar symptoms that are erroneously attributed to aging occur. These include:
- Bladder leakage
- Difficulty staying balanced
- Mood changes
Studies show that many older adults have had one or more silent strokes. A silent stroke puts individuals at risk for a full-blown stroke.
Symptoms Of A Stroke
Ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes have similar symptoms. To help you quickly recognize a stroke in your loved one, medical personnel devised the acronym F.A.S.T.:
- “F = Face drooping: Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?
- A = Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- S = Speech difficulty: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?
- T = Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. Stroke treatment can begin in the ambulance.”
You may also observe one or more of the following symptoms:
- Confusion, inability to understand
- Dizziness, difficulty balancing
- Difficulty walking, loss of coordination
- Loss or decrease of vision in one or both eyes
- Severe headache
- Numbness in face, arms, or legs
These symptoms occur suddenly with no known cause. They are a sign of a medical emergency. DO NOT wait to see if they go away.
Preventing A Stroke
You can lower your risk of having a stroke by improving your lifestyle habits, such as:
- Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet
- Avoiding illegal drugs and overconsumption of alcohol
- Getting exercise and increasing physical activities
- Losing weight if you are overweight
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing your salt intake
- Treating and managing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues
Factors that you cannot control include:
- Age – your risk increases as you mature
- Hormones – treatments to increase estrogen may also increase stroke risk
- Sex – Men are at higher risk of incurring a stroke, but women have a higher risk of dying from a stroke than men do
- Race – African-Americans are at higher risk than other races
If you or your loved one has any of these factors, healthcare providers may prescribe preventative medication. Your provider may also prescribe medicine to prevent a second stroke.
Treatment For Strokes
Treatment for a stroke depends on the type of stroke. Clot-dissolving drugs are administered immediately after an ischemic stroke. Doctors work against a 4.5 hour deadline to reduce the damage to brain cells.
Treatment for hemorrhagic strokes focuses on stopping the bleeding. Physicians also administer drugs to reduce the pressure caused in your brain by the excess blood. They may also perform a surgical procedure.
Once the emergency treatment for either type of stroke is completed, you remain under observation. When it’s safe to do so, you enter a rehabilitation program. Rehab can involve physical and speech therapy, psychological and spiritual counseling, along with other therapies and treatments.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our team of caregivers in Moorpark and our other locations are experienced with stroke recovery and rehabilitation. Their assistance is always customized to meet the needs of you or your loved one.