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A stroke occurs when the normal blood supply to the brain is interrupted. This can happen in several ways. A thrombosis, or blockage in a blood vessel, or an embolism, a fatty deposit or clot which breaks loose and follows the blood stream until it lodges in a smaller vessel, can literally cause the brain the starve to death in a very few minutes by depriving it of blood.

The problem in these cases is too little blood. Too much blood in the wrong place is equally perilous. A hemorrhage, or break, in a blood vessel allows the blood to flood the brain bringing injury - and often irreversible damage - to the delicate structures of the brain.

Right-Hemisphere Stroke
The right hemisphere of the brain controls the movement of the left side of the body. It also controls analytical and perceptual tasks, such as judging distance, size, speed, or position and seeing how parts are connected to wholes.

A stroke in the right hemisphere often causes paralysis in the left side of the body. This is known as left hemiplegia. Survivors of right-hemisphere strokes may also have problems with their spatial and perceptual abilities. This may cause them to misjudge distances (leading to a fall) or be unable to guide their hands to pick up an object, button a shirt or tie their shoes. They may even be unable to tell right-side up from upside-down when trying to read.

Along with their impaired ability to judge spatial relationships, survivors of right-hemisphere strokes often have judgment difficulties that show up in their behavioral styles. These patients often develop an impulsive style unaware of their impairments and certain of their ability to perform the same tasks as before the stroke. This behavioral style can be extremely dangerous. It may lead the left hemiplegic stroke survivor to try to walk without aid. Or it may lead the survivor with spatial and perceptual impairments to try to drive a car.

Survivors of right-hemisphere strokes may also experience left-sided neglect. Stemming from visual field impairments, left-sided neglect causes the survivor of a right-hemisphere stroke to "forget" or "ignore" objects or people on their left side.

Finally, some survivors of right-hemisphere strokes will experience problems with short-term memory. Although they may be able to recount a visit to the seashore that took place 30 years ago, they may be unable to remember what they ate for breakfast that morning.

Left-Hemisphere Stroke
The left hemisphere of the brain controls the movement of the right side of the body. It also controls speech and language abilities for most people. A left-hemisphere stroke often causes paralysis of the right side of the body. This is known as right hemiplegia.

Someone who has had a left-hemisphere stroke may also develop aphasia. Aphasia is a catch-all term used to describe a wide range of speech and language problems. These problems can be highly specific, affecting only one component of the patient's ability to communicate, such as the ability to move their speech-related muscles to talk properly. The same patient may be completely unimpaired when it comes to writing, reading or understanding speech.

In contrast to survivors of right-hemisphere stroke, patients who have had a left-hemisphere stroke often develop a slow and cautious behavioral style. They may need frequent instruction and feedback to complete tasks.

Finally, patients with left-hemisphere stroke may develop memory problems similar to those of right-hemisphere stroke survivors. These problems can include shortened retention spans, difficulty in learning new information and problems in conceptualizing and generalizing.

Cerebellar Stroke

The cerebellum controls many of our reflexes and much of our balance and coordination. A stroke that takes place in the cerebellum can cause abnormal reflexes of the head and torso, coordination and balance problems, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

Brain Stem Stroke

Strokes that occur in the brain stem are especially devastating. The brain stem is the area of the brain that controls all of our involuntary, "life-support" functions, such as breathing rate, blood pressure and heartbeat. The brain stem also controls abilities such as eye movements, hearing, speech and swallowing. Since impulses generated in the brain's hemispheres must travel through the brain stem on their way to the arms and legs, patients with a brain stem stroke may also develop paralysis in one or both sides of the body.


SOURCE: National Stroke Association and






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