Last Updated: October 26, 2017

Stroke - Ischemic and Hemorrhagic Stroke

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A stroke occurs when blood flow is significantly decreased to a portion of the brain, causing brain damage. A stroke can also occur when an artery bleeds inside the brain, resulting in brain injury. Also known as cerebrovascular accidents, strokes are serious, life-threatening events that often permanently impair bodily functions.

Types and Causes of Stroke

Ischemic stroke

An ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow is blocked in an artery that supplies blood to a section of the brain. This blockage deprives the brain of oxygen and injures brain tissue. The most common cause of ischemic strokes is a blood clot that clogs a brain artery.

Types of ischemic strokes

  1. Thrombotic stroke. A thrombus is a blood clot that develops inside an artery and blocks the blood flow. Certain individuals with arterial plaque (atherosclerosis) experience plaque rupture, which triggers thrombus formation that blocks an artery and causes a stroke.
  2. Embolic stroke. Embolic stroke is caused by a blood clot or other material, such as plaque that builds up, breaks off from another part of the body, and travels to the brain. Atrial fibrillation (AF), a fast irregular heart rhythm, is a common cause of stroke. During AF blood pools in the upper chambers of the heart (atria), and this increases the risk for clot formation and stroke. 

Hemorrhagic stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery inside the brain ruptures and bleeds. The bleeding creates a pool of blood that presses on the brain and damages brain cells.

Types of hemorrhagic strokes

  1. Intracerebral hemorrhage: bleeding from a blood vessel inside the brain.
  2. Subarachnoid hemorrhage: bleeding on the brain’s surface.

Hemorrhagic strokes are commonly caused by the following conditions:

Transient ischemic attack (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack occurs when the blood flow to an area of the brain is decreased for a short period of time. In a TIA, the brain is not permanently damaged.

Risk Factors for Stroke


Symptoms of a stroke vary depending on the area of the brain that is injured. The associated loss of bodily functions may be temporary or permanent.

Common stroke symptoms:


When stroke symptoms occur, patients should call 911 for immediate transportation to the hospital, because rapid treatment is essential to prevent permanent brain damage.

The diagnosis of stroke is based on the symptoms and physical examination. Further testing is required to determine the area of the brain affected.

Treatment of Ischemic Stroke



Treatment of Hemorrhagic Stroke


Rehabilitation and Prevention

A variety of special therapists help patients recover as much strength and function as possible. However many patients experience some degree of permanent disability after a stroke.

Most strokes are preventable through adherence to a healthy lifestyle. A healthy low-fat diet emphasizing fruit, vegetables, and whole grains reduces the risk of stroke. Patients should also maintain a normal weight, quit smoking, and exercise regularly.


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Carla Hightower, MD

Dr. Hightower is an experienced physician who studied medicine at Northwestern University, where she also earned an MBA. As the founder of Living Health Works, she offers health coaching to individuals, private groups and corporations.