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Learn About Stroke:
Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

In the United States, stroke affects more than 750,000 people each year. It is the leading cause of adult disabilit and is the fourth-leading cause of death. Learn more about the different types of strokes, the warning signs, stroke causes, and risk factors.

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Types of Stroke

The different types of stroke include:

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Causes of Stroke

A stroke most often occurs when blood flow to the brain becomes blocked (called ischemic stroke).

One of the following problems may cause this blockage:

  • A build-up of fatty substances (atherosclerotic plaque) along an artery's inner lining causes it to narrow, reduces its elasticity, and decreases its blood flow.
  • A clot forms in an artery supplying blood to the brain.
  • A clot forms somewhere in the body - often the heart - and breaks free, traveling to an artery supplying blood to the brain and becoming lodged there.

A stroke also may occur if a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into or around the brain.  If this happens, it is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

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Stroke Symptoms

If you suspect someone is having a stroke, watch for these common warning signs.

  • One-sided weakness
  • Numbness on one side of face, arm, or leg
  • Slurred or garbled speech
  • Difficulty talking to or understanding others
  • Loss of vision or difficulty seeing in one eye  
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty with balance or coordination of arms or legs
  • Severe headache (the worst headache of your life)

 It’s important to call 911 immediately at any sign of a stroke.

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Diagnosing Stroke

Tests that help doctors diagnose stroke include:

  • Neurological exams
  • Blood tests
  • Other tests to quickly determine the cause, location, and amount of damage
  • Imaging scans, such as:
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan — a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the brain.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan — a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the brain.
    • Arteriography (angiography) — shows arteries in the brain.
    • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) — creates a map of blood flow in the brain's vessels.
    • Functional MRI — shows brain activity by picking up signals from oxygenated blood.
    • Doppler ultrasound — reveals narrowing of the arteries supplying blood to the brain.

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