Stroke Damage Therapy
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to
the part of the brain is suddenly interrupted (ischemic) or when a blood
vessel in the brain bursts, spilling blood into the spaces surrounding the
brain cells (hemorrhagic).
The symptoms of strokes are easy to spot: sudden
numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion
or trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing in one
or both eyes; sudden trouble walking; dizziness; or loss of balance or
Brain cells die when they no longer receive oxygen and
nutrients from the blood or when they are damaged by sudden bleeding into
or around the brain. These damaged cells can linger in a compromised state
for several hours.
With timely treatment, these cells can be saved. Strokes
are diagnosed through several techniques: a short neurological examination,
blood tests, CT scans, MRI scans, Doppler ultrasound, and arteriography.
Strokes seem to run in some families. Family members may have a genetic
tendency for strokes or share a lifestyle that contributes to strokes.
most important risk factors for stroke are hypertension, heart disease,
diabetes, and cigarette smoking. Other risks include heavy alcohol
consumption, high blood cholesterol levels, illicit drug use, and genetic
or congenital conditions. Some risk factors for strokes apply only to
women. Primary among these are pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
Generally, there are three treatment stages for strokes: prevention,
therapy immediately after stroke, and post-stroke rehabilitation.
Therapies to prevent stroke are based on treating an individual's
underlying risk factors.
Acute stroke therapies try to stop a stroke while
it is happening. Post-stroke rehabilitation is to overcome disabilities
that result from stroke damage. Medication or drug therapy is the most
common treatment for strokes. Surgery can be used to prevent strokes, to
treat acute stroke, or to repair vascular damage or malformations in and
around the brain.
For most stroke patients, physical therapy is the
cornerstone of the rehabilitation process. Another type of therapy
involving relearning daily activities is occupational therapy (OT). OT
also involves exercise and training to help the stroke patient relearn
everyday activities such as eating, drinking and swallowing, dressing,
bathing, cooking, reading and writing, and toileting.
Speech therapy is
appropriate for patients who have no deficits in cognition or thinking,
but have problems understanding speech or written words, or problems
Although stroke is a disease of the brain, it can affect the entire body.
Some of the disabilities that can result from strokes include paralysis,
cognitive deficits, speech problems, emotional difficulties, daily living
problems, and pain.
research is being done?
Some brain damage that results from strokes may be secondary to the initial
death of brain cells caused by the lack of blood flow to the brain tissue.
This brain damage is a result of a toxic reaction to the primary damage.
Researchers are studying the mechanisms of this toxic reaction and ways to
prevent this secondary injury to the brain. Scientists hope to develop
neuroprotective agents to prevent this damage. Another area of research
involves experiments with vasodilators, medication that expand or dilate
blood vessels and thus increase the blood flow to the brain. Basic
research has also focused on the genetics of strokes and stroke risk
One area of research involving genetics is gene therapy. One
promising area of stroke animal research involves hibernation. The
dramatic decrease of blood flow to the brain in hibernating animals is
extensive enough t that it would kill a non-hibernating animal. If
scientists can discover how animals hibernate without experiences brain
damage, then maybe they can discover ways to stop the brain damage
associated with decreased blood flow in stroke patients.
Other studies are
looking at the role of hypothermia, or decreased body temperature, on
metabolism and neuroprotection. Scientists are working to develop new and
better ways to help the brain repair itself and restore important
functions to the stroke patients. Some evidence suggests that transcranial
magnetic stimulation (TMS), in which a small magnetic current is delivered
to an area of the brain, may possibly increase brain plasticity and speed
up recover of function after strokes.
American Stroke Association: A Division
of the American Heart Association
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX 75231-4596
Tel: 1-888-4STROKE (478-7653)
Brain Aneurysm Foundation
295 Cambridge Street
Old Forge Realty Bldg.
Boston, MA 02114
National Stroke Association
9707 East Easter Lane
Englewood, CO 80112-3747
Tel: 303-649-9299 800-STROKES (787-6537)
Stroke Clubs International
805 12th Street
Galveston, TX 77550
National Aphasia Association
29 John Street
New York, NY 10038
Tel: 212-267-2814 800-922-4NAA (4622)
Children's Hemiplegia and Strokes Assocn.
4101 West Green Oaks Blvd.
Arlington, TX 76016
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© Anthony George 2005
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