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A stroke is classified as a loss of brain function as the result of a disturbance to the amount of blood being supplied to the brain. This may be caused by a lack of blood or by an overabundance. These disturbances may be caused by a blockage such as thrombosis or by a leakage caused by a hemorrhage. When blood flow to the brain is disrupted, the areas affected may longer function properly. As a result, a stroke is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

There are several signs and symptoms to look for if it is believed that someone is having a stroke. These symptoms typically begin suddenly and fully develop within minutes or even just a few seconds. Because the symptoms hit suddenly, they are very distinct and noticeable. One of the most common signs is sudden weakness or numbness in the face, leg, or arm, especially on one side of the body. Patients may also experience changes in vision in one or both eyes, sudden confusion, slurred speech, dizziness, or a severe headache.

Diagnosis and Medical Testing

Doctors are often able to tell whether or not a patient has suffered a stroke based on the symptoms he or she is experiencing. A full physical examination is conducted immediately so the doctor can determine the stroke's location and severity. If a physician believes that a patient has had a stroke, treatment can be begun immediately. A full diagnosis, however, is typically reached through the use of advanced imaging equipment. Doctors commonly look at the brain using CT scans, MRI scans, and Doppler ultrasounds. Using these images, they can detect the exact type and cause of stroke. In some cases, blood tests may also be performed to help medical personnel understand the cause of a stroke.

Treatment Options

Stroke treatment and prognosis largely depends upon the type and severity. When a patient suffers an ischemic stroke or stroke caused by restricted blood flow, treatment requires the removal or breaking down of the clot. In cases of hemorrhagic stroke, it is necessary to locate the source of bleeding and stop it as soon as possible. This may be done through surgical or nonsurgical means depending on the location and severity.

Rehabilitation and Recovery

Many stroke patients experience disabling symptoms and need to undergo stroke rehabilitation to learn how to return to a normal life. Rehabilitation specialists can teach patients how to understand and cope with difficulties in their everyday lives. Patients who have mild strokes without major disabling symptoms may be able to resume normal daily activities shortly after leaving the hospital. Some changes in lifestyle and diet may be necessary. When strokes are severe or not treated in time, they may lead to coma or death.

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