What Is an Ischemic Stroke?

By boone
Reviewed: Dr. Mera
Article Sources Article Sources
  • 1. Stroke Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 Sept. 2020, www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm.
  • 2. Ischemic Stroke Treatment. www.stroke.org, www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/treatment/ischemic-stroke-treatment.
  • 3. Edward C Jauch, M. (2020, June 22). Ischemic Stroke. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1916852-overview
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Strokes are one of the top causes of death in the United States, and approximately one-fourth of people will suffer at least one stroke in their lifetime. According to the CDC, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds in the United States.1Stroke Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 Sept. 2020, www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm. Ischemic strokes are the most common among all the types of strokes.

An ischemic stroke occurs when one of the blood vessels that carry blood to the brain experiences a blockage. It is known as ischemic because it causes “ischemia” or a restriction of blood supply to the tissue affected. As a result, there is a shortage of the oxygen needed for the tissue’s basic functions. If untreated, this may lead to subsequent tissue death. Seeking prompt care in this situation is essential, so understanding what the symptoms are and knowing what treatments are available can help individuals seek help more quickly.

1. What Causes an Ischemic Stroke?

There are several reasons an obstruction may form in vessels, or arteries leading to the brain, resulting in an ischemic stroke. This blockage can be caused by either a thrombus (cerebral thrombosis) or an embolus (cerebral embolism). Cerebral thrombosis is the most common of the two.

A thrombus is a clot that develops at a plaque within a blood vessel, which is normally caused by a disease known as atherosclerosis. When a plaque within a blood vessel that supplies the brain ruptures and occludes it, we refer to it as a thrombus. Conversely, an embolus is a blood clot that forms in another place of the circulatory system (i.e. left heart). However, because this clot ruptures and travels, it manages to reach the brain and occlude small vessels. For instance, irregular heart rhythms (i.e. atrial fibrillation) can cause clots to form in the atria of the heart, break free, and make their way to the brain.

Ischemic Stroke

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