A cerebrovascular accident (CVA), more commonly known as a stroke, occurs when the blood supply for the brain is interrupted. This deprives the brain cells of oxygen and nutrients, potentially resulting in cell damage and death. A CVA may lead to permanent damage, including reduced functionality and impaired thinking or death. The two major types of CVA are hemorraghic and ischemic stroke.
A hemorraghic stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and leaks into the surrounding tissue. This may cause damage to brain cells. Some individuals may be more susceptible to hemorraghic stroke, a result of genetic factors; however, the majority of hemorraghic stroke is thought to be caused by consistently elevated blood pressure, a condition known as hypertension. Hemorraghic strokes account for approximately 10 per cent of strokes.
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel nourishing the brain becomes occluded by a blood clot. Ischemic stroke has several subcategories, the most common being thrombosis and an embolism. Thrombosis is implicated when a blood vessel is blocked locally, stopping blood flow downstream (i.e., the brain). An embolism results when a blockage develops in a blood vessel and it travels to a smaller artery in the brain, creating a blockage and impeding blood supply to another region of the brain. Ischemic strokes account for the majority of strokes in the American population.
Symptoms of CVA depend on the type of stroke and the area of the brain affected. A patient may observe changes in consciousness, numbness and tingling in one side of the body, sense changes (sight, hearing and vision) and changes in motor function. If the CVA is minor, no symptoms may be present.
Typical treatment of a CVA includes medications that break up clots and surgical intervention. The physician will also perform diagnostic tests, which may include an echocardiogram, magnetic resonance angiography or a CT.
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