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What are the different types of stroke?

There are three types of stroke, but what are they?

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The most common type of stroke is an ischaemic stroke, which accounts for an estimated 85 per cent of all strokes in the UK.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is caused by the blood supply to a part of the brain being cut off, which in turn kills brain cells.

This damage to the brain can affect how your brain works, and it can also the way you think and feel.

The lasting damage caused by a stroke can depend on where it takes place in the brain, and also how big the damaged area is. 

Ischaemic stroke

As mentioned, ischaemic stroke is the most common type of stroke.

It is caused by a blockage b a blood clot which cuts off the blood and oxygen supply to the brain.

The blood clots will usually form in areas where the arteries have been narrowed or blocked over time by fatty deposits, known as plaques or atheromas.

This process is known as atherosclerosis.

These atheromas can build up in the large arteries located in the neck which lead to the brain. 

Atheromas can either break down or become inflamed. Clots can form round the atheromas, which can lead the blood vessel being blocked. The clot may then break off and make its way through the bloodstream into the brain, which causes stroke.

Other causes of ischaemic stroke are: Small vessel disease, atrial fibrillation, arterial dissection, hole in the heart and previous heart complications.

Haemorrhagic stroke

Haemorrhagic stokes account for 15 per cent of strokes in the UK.

They are caused by bleeding around or in the brain. This cuts off the blood supply to part of your brain, which kills brain cells.

There are two types of haemorrhagic stroke, intracerebral haemorrhage, which is bleeding within the brain, and subarachnoid haemorrhage, which is bleeding on the surface of the brain.

There are different cases to haemorrhagic strokes, they can be such things as abnormal blood vessels in the brain. 

There are also some things which can make you more susceptible to a haemorrhagic stroke, high blood pressure for example.

Intracerebral haemorrhage (ICH)

This is where a blood vessel leaks out blood in the brain tissue, occasionally this can occur deep inside the brain. This is the most common type of haemorrhagic stroke, with an estimated two thirds of all haemorrhagic strokes being caused by ICH.

Subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH)

Like intracerebral haemorrhage, blood leaks out of a blood vessel, however this time it leaks on the surface of the brain and then gets into the protective layer of fluid surrounding the brain, known as subarachnoid space.

This is the least common kind of stroke, with an estimated 1 in 20 strokes being SAH.

Transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

Commonly known as a mini-stroke, a transient ischaemic attack is the same as a stroke, however, the symptoms only last for a short period of time.

This is cause by a clot blocking the blood supply in the brain, but after the clot moves, the symptoms will stop.

Even though you may feel fine after a TIA, it is important to seek medical help as it is a warning sign that you are high risk of having a stroke.

This risk is at its peak in the first days and weeks after having a TIA. 

For advice on how to spot a stroke see here.

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