What is stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted.

There are two main types of stroke:

  • ischaemic stroke - caused by a blockage or narrowing of a blood vessel (artery) that supplies blood to the brain
  • haemorrhagic stroke - caused by a blood vessel bursting and bleeding in the brain.

About 80% of all strokes are ischaemic strokes.   

Strokes can cause brain damage or even death. This happens because the blood supply to the brain is interrupted and brain cells around the affected area don’t get enough oxygen or nutrients. The brain cells can die, resulting in brain damage or death.

What is a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke?

A mini-stroke — medically known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) — has the same causes and symptoms as an ischaemic stroke, but these symptoms last for less than 24 hours and don’t usually result in serious damage to brain cells.

Even though it may be a mini-stroke, TIAs need the same type of emergency treatment as a full stroke, particularly as you can’t know at the time of the symptoms how long they are likely to last. You need a doctor to be able to tell the difference between a stroke and a TIA.

A TIA is also an important warning sign that an ischaemic stroke may happen within a few hours, days or weeks, and you may also be at risk of a heart attack. About 1 in 5 people who have a TIA will have a major stroke within the next 3 months, though the risk is greatest within the first few days following the mini-stroke.

See a doctor immediately, if you suspect you have had a TIA or a stroke, even if your stroke symptoms disappear and you feel better.

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