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What is the difference between a brain bleed and a stroke?

Updated February 21, 2019

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is stopped and the brain is starved of blood and oxygen. There are two types of strokes: ischemic strokes (where the blood flow is blocked) and hemorrhagic strokes (brain bleeds), which are also called cerebral haemorrhages. Hemorrhagic strokes are more deadly than ischemic strokes, but ischemic strokes are more common (87 per cent of strokes).

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Ischemic Stroke Caused by Blood Clot

The presence of artherosclerosis (fatty deposits and plaque in the arteries) can affect blood flow and cause the formation of a blood clot in the brain; this is called a thrombotic stroke.

Ischemic Stroke Caused by Embolism

Blood clots or other particles that form in one place and travel to the brain are called emboli and can cause a cerebral embolism, which can lead to a stroke; the most common cause of this type of emboli is atrial fibrillation.

Hemorrhagic Stroke Caused by Weakened Artery Walls

A common cause of cerebral haemorrhage is high blood pressure because this condition weakens the blood vessel walls; sometimes a weak area in the blood vessel wall balloons outward (aneurysm) and eventually bursts, causing bleeding.

Other Causes of Hemorrhagic Stroke

Bleeding in the brain can be caused by an abnormal connection between an artery and a vein (arterial-venous malformation) that leaks. Cancer metastases to the brain, some illegal drugs and bleeding disorders can cause brain haemorrhages as well.

Treatment Differences

The goal in treating an ischemic stroke is to remove the clot often using thrombolytic (clot-busting) medications, while the goal of treatment in hemorrhagic stroke is to stop the bleeding and to stop the swelling of the tissue impacted by the bleeding.

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About the Author

Dominique Brooks

Dominique Brooks has been a medical editor for over 10 years. She has worked in medical education for physicians, nurses and pharmacists as well as consumers. She started writing business articles for Work.com in 2008 and health articles online in 2009. She holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama and a Doctor of Medicine from Vanderbilt University.

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