What is a Hemorrhagic Stroke?

A hemorrhagic stroke is a stroke that occurs from excess bleeding in the brain, which damages brain tissue. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. The brain is especially sensitive to bleeding, so blood in this organ can cause quick destruction.

Blood also increases the pressure on the brain by pushing it against the skull. The bleeding causes swelling, which the brain tissue attempts to resist. The expansion eventually forms a mass called a hematoma, and together with the swelling, this mass displaces ordinary brain tissue.

Twenty percent of strokes are hemorrhagic, and the rest are called ischemic. While a hemorrhagic stroke occurs from excess bleeding, an ischemic stroke occurs when not enough blood can get to the brain because of a clot that blocks a blood vessel. This can often lead to a brain hemorrhage because brain tissue softens. Blood vessels then break down, causing bleeding.

A brain hemorrhage can also be a result of difficulty clotting. Clotting involves the forming of proteins and platelets, but if there are not enough of these or if they are inadequate, the bleeding will be uncontrolled. Medications such as aspirin sometimes prevent clotting by blocking the production of clotting factors or by tampering with the role of platelets. This causes bleeding, which can affect the brain.


Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a number of different factors. High blood pressure can lead to one because the artery walls become stressed to the point of breaking. An aneurysm can also cause a hemorrhagic stroke. During an aneurysm, blood circulates in a damaged artery, causing an expansion from pressure in the artery wall. Because of this pressure, the artery wall can rupture.

An unhealthy lifestyle and diet is often the primary cause of strokes, and genes play a role as well. Family history and personal stroke history can also affect strokes. A hemorrhagic stroke in particularly can also be caused by too much amyloid, a protein in the walls of the artery that makes the arteries more likely to bleed. The use of drugs such as cocaine can also result in a hemorrhagic stroke because of the bleeding effect.

If a hemorrhagic stroke is suspected, a CT scan should be performed immediately. This will provide a picture of the brain so that bleeding can be pinpointed. Also, an MRI scan can more precisely determine the cause of bleeding. Symptoms of hemorrhagic stroke victims include impaired movement, numbness, coordination trouble, partial vision loss, difficulty speaking, headache, dizziness, loss of recognition, trouble swallowing and drowsiness.

Only 20 percent of patients who suffer hemorrhagic strokes regain functional independence. Between 40 and 80 percent of victims die within a month, and half of these die in the first two days. Additionally, seizures are not uncommon in victims of a hemorrhagic stroke.



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