Know the Different Types of Strokes

Every stroke affects your brain. But not every stroke hits you the same way. Nor are they all treated the same. McLeod Neurologist Timothy Hagen, DO explains the different types of strokes.

Here are highlights of Dr. Hagen’s comments:

A stroke is a sudden loss of blood to the brain or the spinal cord. Most strokes are what we call ischemic, which means there wasn’t enough blood to a particular part of your brain . There’s some strokes that are actually a bleed to the part of the brain and they are what cause the disability and a loss of function and even death if the stroke is large enough.

There are different types of strokes, usually characterized by how the interruption of blood occurs. You can have a large vessel stroke in the carotid artery that goes up both sides of your neck. Those strokes are usually caused by a clot that came from the carotids, the large arteries in your head or even a clot from your heart (called an embolic from the heart).

You can also have small blood vessel strokes, which are classically associated with hardening of the arteries.

A small lacunar stroke usually happens deep in the brain. They cause a lot of problems, because of all the important functions this part of the brain controls.

Unusual events can also produce strokes. A heart valve infection can trigger a stroke not caused by a thromboembolic source.

Another kind is called the bleeding stroke, usually triggered when hypertension (high blood pressure) causes an artery to rupture. Blood outside of the blood vessel injures part of the brain, possibly causing a significant disability or death.

The most common stroke is what we call the ischemic stroke, accounting for 80-85% of all strokes. Hypertension is the primary underlying cause, with age as a contributing factor. We think that through atherosclerosis — the hardening of the arteries — cholesterol builds up in the arteries. The wall ruptures, allowing a clot to either stay right where it ruptures or travel further up into the brain, causing the actual stroke.

Learn more about stroke.