A typical stroke is the result of blood flow being blocked from part of the brain, and when the brain is deprived of blood and oxygen, the cells begin to die. When a stroke is considered to be massive, it can result in paralysis of one side of the body, an inability to speak, memory loss, coma, or even death. There are two types of massive strokes, ischemic and hemorrhagic; the first is usually caused by blood clots while the second is caused by bleeding in the brain. Brain attacks and cerebrovascular accidents (CVAs) are other commonly used names for a massive stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States; oftentimes, a stroke can be avoided by such things as eating a healthy diet, abstaining from tobacco products, and having low blood pressure.
An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, and may occur when a blood clot develops in an artery that supplies blood to the brain. Blood clots are usually the result of other problems, and can form as the result of a hardening of the arteries due to diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or smoking. Heart valve problems and infections, irregular heart rhythms, heart attacks, or blood-clotting disorders may also be responsible for the clots that cause ischemic strokes. As the clot travels through the artery, it can eventually reach the brain and cause the person to have a stroke.
The second type of stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, is caused by bleeding inside the brain. The bleeding is due to a ruptured blood vessel in the brain, which may be the result of long-term high blood pressure or a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. Other less-common causes of a hemorrhagic stroke include inflammation of the blood vessels due to diseases such as syphilis, tuberculosis, or Lyme disease; blood-clotting disorders; a head, neck, or brain injury; or neck or brain cancer radiation treatment. This type of stroke often has symptoms that get worse over time or occur in episodes, coming and going periodically, as opposed to an ischemic stroke that typically affects a person immediately.
A massive stroke can occur very quickly, and the faster a stroke is treated, the lower the likelihood of severe permanent damage. Many individuals experience transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or mini-strokes prior to the onset of a major stroke. Seeking immediate medical treatment for a TIA may reduce the risk of a following massive stroke.
Symptoms of a stroke are usually sudden and often short in duration. The symptoms are usually contained to a particular side of the body, so any sudden numbness, weakness, paralysis, or vision problems on one side of the body could be a serious stroke symptom. Other symptoms include slurred speech, trouble walking, confusion, dizziness, or a sudden severe headache. Any of these symptoms should be taken seriously, and prompt medical attention is vitally important to preventing or minimizing the effects of a massive stroke.
There are many treatment options available for those who have suffered a massive stroke, and it is quite possible for stroke patients to live normal lives after the incident, especially if treatment is administered quickly. An ischemic stroke is generally treated immediately with clot-dissolving medications and medications to regulate blood sugar levels and fever. Immediate treatments for a hemorrhagic stroke include medications to control blood pressure, fever, swelling, and blood sugar levels. If the bleeding inside the brain is severe or if the stroke was caused by a ruptured aneurysm, surgery may be needed to remove the blood or repair the aneurysm. Ongoing treatment for massive stroke patients may include rehabilitation programs, along with medications to regulate blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Overall good health practices are the best way to prevent a stroke. Eating a healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce the chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure, all of which can cause a massive stroke. Lowering stress levels also help prevent strokes as does avoiding all tobacco products. Many health care professionals advise obese patients to loose excess weight, which can decrease unnecessary build up in arteries and thereby reduce the patient's chance of suffering a massive stroke.