What Is a Stroke?
A stroke, also called a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is a medical disorder whereby the arteries going to the brain become blocked or burst, which results in brain tissue death. There are two types of strokes: ischemic stroke, which results from a blocked artery, and hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by bleeding in the brain. In addition to these two types of stroke, there is also what is known medically as transient ischemic attack (TIA), also referred to as a mini stroke. A TIA often serves as a warning sign for an impeding stroke.
In the United States, stroke is the third leading cause of death, affecting approximately 600,000 and claiming the lives of 160,000 people every year. Most strokes affect older people, with two out of three strokes affecting people over the age of 65. Strokes are slightly more common in men, though they are more deadly in women.
What Are the Causes of Stroke?
The major risk factors for stroke include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis caused by high cholesterol. Other medical conditions, such as vasculitis, arterial aneurisms, and blood vessel malformations, can also cause strokes.
Strokes can also be caused by traumatic accidents or the use of certain prescription drugs. The following drugs are some of those shown to increase the risk of stroke:
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Vioxx, Bextra, and Celebrex
- Ortho Evra (birth control patch)
- Epogen (anemia treatment)
- Lucentis (macular degeneration drug)
- Evista (osteoporosis drug)
- Avastin (colorectal cancer treatment)
- Breast cancer prevention drugs (i.e. raloxifene and tamoxifen)
- Trasylol (used to prevent blood loss during surgery)
- Zelnorm (a drug used to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke while taking one of these or another type of drug, you may wish to contact a qualified attorney who can review your case to determine your legal rights and options. Our experienced attorneys are prepared to help you and your family, please contact us today.
Ischemic strokes are the result of a blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the brain. The arteries become blocked by a blood clot or a fatty deposit, which travels through the bloodstream and becomes lodged in the artery. When these arteries are blocked, the brain is not able to get an adequate supply of oxygen and blood and brain tissue death occurs. Approximately 80 percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes.
Transient Ischemic Attacks
A transient ischemic attack (TIA), often called a mini-stroke, is a temporary disruption in brain functioning, which occurs when the blood supply is briefly blocked by a blood clot or fatty deposit. TIAs are commonly a warning sign of an impending ischemic stroke. People who have suffered a TIA are ten times more likely to suffer a stroke than those who have not.
Approximately 20 percent of all strokes are hemorrhagic strokes. Hemorrhagic strokes are the result of bleeding in the brain, which can cause brain tissue, irritation, scarring, and death. With hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel ruptures and allows blood to leak into the tissue of the brain. This irritates the brain tissue leading to swelling and sometimes scarring, which can cause seizures. There are two types of hemorrhagic stroke: intracerebral hemorrhage, where bleeding occurs within the brain; and subarachnoid hemorrhage, where bleeding occurs between the inner and middle layers of the tissues covering the brain. The use of anticoagulant medications can increase the risk of developing a hemorrhagic stroke.
What are the Symptoms of Stroke?
The symptoms of stroke depend on the type of stroke and what arteries or parts of the brain are affected. The following are the most common symptoms of stroke:
- Severe headache with no obvious cause (commonly first sign of hemorrhagic stroke and often occurs with ischemic stroke as well)
- Sudden weakness, abnormal sensations, or paralysis to one or more limbs, or one side of the body
- Sudden dimness, reduced vision, double vision, or blindness, often in only one eye
- Loss of balance and coordination, which can often lead to falls
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden confusion
- Abnormal breathing (often a sign of herniation)
- Stupor, loss of consciousness, or coma
- Inability to control emotions; depression
- Nausea and vomiting (hemorrhagic stroke)
- Very high blood pressure (hemorrhagic stroke)
The symptoms of transient ischemic attacks are similar, lasting 2 to 30 minutes and very rarely more than 1 or 2 hours.
If a patient experiences any of these symptoms of stroke, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Early treatment can help to prevent loss of function and sensation. Initiating treatment within 3 to 6 hours of the onset of symptoms can significantly help to mitigate the damage caused by stroke.
Effects of Stroke
In patients suffering from an ischemic stroke, the time immediately after the stroke is typically the time of greatest loss of functioning. However, with some strokes, the effects are progressive and the greatest loss of function occurs one to two days following the stroke. In patients suffering from a hemorrhagic stroke, the greatest loss of function often occurs progressively in the minutes or hours following stroke.
Certain factors can help indicate the outcome of a stroke. For example, strokes that cause loss of consciousness or affect a large part of the left side of the brain often have a poor prognosis. In patients who have suffered an ischemic attack, loss of neurological functioning that lasts for over six months is likely to be permanent. Strokes in older patients or to those with other significant neurological conditions often have a poorer prognosis.
In many cases, some functioning can be regained in the days and months following a stroke despite brain tissue death or damage. Additionally, the brain can modify its functioning by allowing healthy parts to take over the actions of damaged parts, a characteristic known as brain plasticity. Rehabilitation often involves exercises and training that can encourage brain plasticity.
Unfortunately, the early effects of stroke—such as paralysis, muscle stiffness and spasticity, trouble with speech and/or movement—can be permanent. Patients recovering from stroke may continue to experience the following debilitating symptoms: trouble with performing daily activities, cognitive difficulties (i.e. thinking, memory, attention, and learning), emotional disturbances, visual damage, dizziness and vertigo, and bowel and bladder problems.
The success of stroke rehabilitation often depends on the parts of the brain that have been damaged, the patient’s overall physical condition, the patient’s level of functioning prior to the stroke, and the patient’s learning ability, attitude, and social situation following the stroke. In many cases, stroke rehabilitation can help a patient regain lost functioning after a stroke.
If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke during a major traumatic accident or while taking a prescription drug, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your losses and suffering. Our qualified and experienced attorneys can evaluate your case to determine your legal rights and options. Please contact us today for a free review of your case.