A guide to 4 types of strokes

Group therapy for seniors

There are many different risk factors that can contribute to a person’s likelihood of having a stroke. But there are only a couple of common types of strokes and variations on them. Strokes can deprive parts of the brain of oxygen in a few different ways. Strokes can also vary in severity, and getting treatment quickly can make a big difference in the overall effect of a stroke.

While many strokes happen to people over age 65, people of any age can have a stroke. There’s a lot you can do to minimize your risk of stroke, and most of these things are related to staying healthy and active. Keeping your blood pressure and level of “bad” cholesterol low by eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise are some of the top priorities for stroke prevention. Limiting alcohol consumption and refraining from smoking tobacco will also lower your risk. 

This article will outline four different types of stroke and how they can affect the body.

How many types of strokes are there?

There are two main types of stroke and one less common type. There are also “mini strokes,” which are strokes that only last a brief period of time. These all stem from a couple of common biological causes or mechanisms: either blood clots or torn blood vessels in or around the brain. When blood flow to the brain is reduced or bleeding puts pressure on the brain, it becomes deprived of air and nutrients. Brain cells begin to die in moments, which is why immediate treatment is so critical.

Most educational materials discuss the two most common types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. Ischemia is the narrowing or blockage of a blood vessel that restricts blood flow to the brain. This can be caused by genetic conditions, smoking, high levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of cholesterol and other debris, known as plaque.

About ischemic strokes

Ischemic strokes happen when a blood clot enters or forms in the brain, blocking blood flow and oxygen supply. Most often blood clots form in the heart and are ejected into the bloodstream. When a blood clot forms elsewhere in the body and travels to the brain, this type of ischemic stroke is called an embolic stroke.

Ischemic strokes restrict blood flow in one area of the brain on either the right or left side, which can reduce cognitive function. The opposite side of the body may become weakened as well, or parts of the body can become paralyzed. Uneven amounts of strength and coordination in the left and right body can affect your gait, or the way you walk. 

Some early research has shown that COVID-19 could increase the risk of ischemic stroke, but more study is needed. In rare cases, ischemic strokes can cause a blood vessel to burst and turn into hemorrhagic strokes.

Symptoms of an ischemic stroke may include:

  • Difficulty understanding others
  • Slurred speech
  • Numbness, weakness or paralysis in the face, arm or leg
  • Blurred vision, double vision, or trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance or coordination

About hemorrhagic strokes

Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a blood vessel tears or bursts in the brain or the membrane that surrounds it. Bleeding increases the amount of pressure on the brain, which also depletes the oxygen and nutrients it receives. Hemorrhagic strokes can happen because of trauma to the head. High blood pressure is a risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke, and overtreatment with anticoagulants or blood thinners can raise the risk, too. Some conditions that affect the blood vessels put people at a higher risk for hemorrhagic stroke. 

Symptoms of a hemorrhagic stroke may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Loss of balance
  • Problems with speech or swallowing
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Weakness or numbness in the face, leg, or arm on one side of the body
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

About cerebellar strokes

A cerebellar stroke can be caused by either a blockage or bleeding, but it’s rare in that it only affects a portion or one side of the cerebellum. The cerebellum sits at the back, lower part of the brain, and it controls coordination and movement. In this type of stroke, cognitive function typically isn’t affected, but movement in the left or right side of the body may be restricted.

Some symptoms of cerebellar strokes can include:

  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Double vision
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Poor coordination
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
  • Uncontrollable eye movement
  • Unconsciousness

About mini strokes

Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or “mini strokes” happen when a blood clot or fatty deposit temporarily reduces blood flow to part of the nervous system. This can last as little as a few minutes. TIAs have similar symptoms to other types of stroke. 

While TIAs don’t cause damage, it’s important to seek treatment immediately because you may still have a restricted artery. It’s also impossible to tell if you’re having a stroke or a TIA based on the symptoms alone. 

How can strokes affect the body?

In the best-case scenarios, people don’t lose much of their movement abilities, and they can make full recoveries. However, stroke is considered a leading cause of serious long-term disability. A stroke can cause significant impairment in language, cognition, motor skills and sensory skills. Having any type of stroke increases your risk of having another one in the future.

Some strokes can be fatal, but the treatments available today have greatly reduced the rate of stroke deaths. Mortality varies considerably by state because of extreme temperatures and differences in regional diets, smoking habits, racial makeup and lifestyle. 

Keep making progress with stroke rehabilitation at Ability KC

The first three months of stroke recovery are the most critical because it’s when the most improvement can be achieved. However, stroke rehabilitation can take a couple of years, and some patients won’t fully recover their previous abilities. Comprehensive stroke rehabilitation includes speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy. 

Recovery after a stroke is time sensitive. To reach your fullest potential, you’ll need an integrated team of therapists that understands your personal goals and interests. 

We offer both a day rehabilitation program and outpatient treatment for individuals recovering from a stroke. At Ability KC, we tailor each care plan to the individual patient’s needs for personalized and comprehensive treatment experiences. 

Are you or a loved one recovering from a stroke? Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial evaluation.