About Stroke

Of all the neurological disorders, stroke is the largest single cause of adult disability.1 If you or a member of your family has been affected by stroke, you know stroke may cause severe spasticity.

Definition

A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel or artery. It also can occur when a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. A stroke kills brain cells in the immediate area.

When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. These abilities may include speech, movement, and memory. The way a stroke affects you depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much of the brain is damaged.2

Causes

An ischemic stroke is the most common kind of stroke. It's caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain. A haemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain. "Mini-strokes," or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), happen when the blood supply to the brain is briefly interrupted.3

Risk Factors

A stroke can happen to anyone. However, you can control or treat many major risk factors, including:4

  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • TIA

Risk factors you can't control include:2

  • Being over age 55
  • Being male
  • Being Asian/Pacific Islander, African American or Hispanic
  • Having a family history of stroke

Symptoms

Symptoms of stroke come on suddenly, and may include:4

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

Diagnosis

The following screening tools are most often used to determine stroke risk, but they also can be used to diagnose stroke:5

  • Physical examination
  • Basic laboratory tests
  • Specialised tests, which may include CT Scan, computed tomographic angiography (CTA), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and electrocardiogram (ECG), or an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart.

About Spasticity due to Stroke

If you've suffered a stroke, you may begin to experience spasticity.

Spasticity is caused by damage or injury to the part of the central nervous system (the brain or spinal cord) that controls voluntary movement. This damage disrupts important signals between the nervous system and muscles, creating an imbalance that increases muscle activity or spasms.

Spasticity can make movement, posture, and balance difficult. It may affect your ability to move one or more of your limbs, or to move one side of your body. Sometimes spasticity is so severe that it gets in the way of daily activities, sleep patterns, and care giving. In certain situations, this loss of control can be dangerous for the individual.

References

  1. Brain Australia. Stroke. Available at: www.brainaustralia.org.au/stroke. Accessed 15/10/08.
  2. National Stroke Association. What is Stroke. Available at: www.stroke.org. Accessed 04/04/08.
  3. Medline Plus. Stroke. Available at: www.nlm.nih.gov. Accessed 04/04/08.
  4. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Risk Factors for a Stroke. Available at: www.ninds.nih.gov. Accessed 04/04/08.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Stroke. Available at: www.mayoclinic.org. Accessed 04/04/08.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 27 Sep 2010

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