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Apoplexy is uncontrolled bleeding into the brain due to a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), resulting in sudden loss of consciousness and paralysis of various parts of the body. Also known as a stroke, apoplexy happens when an artery or blood vessel in the brain is blocked or broken, severely reducing blood supply that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Without oxygen and nutrients, brain cells will begin to die within a few minutes. A delicate balance in the amount of blood supply to the brain is essential to avoid a stroke.
Causes. Apoplexy can occur if there is too much blood within the brain. This is called a hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or leaks due to the onset of other diseases, such as high blood pressure and aneurysm. Intracerebral and subarachnoid hemorrhages are two examples of this type of stroke.
Apoplexy can also happen if there is too little blood within the brain. This is an ischemic stroke and results in the death of irreplaceable brain cells. Eighty percent of cases fall within this group. The two most common kinds of ischemic strokes are thrombotic and embolic strokes.
Symptoms. More than one of these symptoms can appear suddenly and swiftly:
- Headache: An unusually painful headache, followed by a stiff neck and pain in the face and between the eyes
- Vision: Decreased ability to see, resulting in blurred or double vision
- Aphasia: Difficulty in speaking or in understanding speech
- Paralysis: Numbness, weakness or immobility on one side of the body
- Motor control: Loss of coordination and balance
- Nausea: Dizziness followed by vomiting
- Mental effects: Confusion and problems with perception, memory and spatial orientation
Even though apoplexy usually gives no warning, there is one possible indication that precipitates this condition – the transient ischemic attack (TIA). TIA is much like a stroke, whereby blood flow to certain parts of the brain is interrupted. However, TIA is a temporary condition, lasting anywhere between several minutes to 24 hours, and leaves no permanent after-effects. TIA symptoms are similar to those of apoplexy and are a serious warning that a full attack may ensue shortly.
Apoplexy is the leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death in the United States (US). This condition is, therefore, considered a medical emergency and requires prompt treatment to prevent or minimize serious damages. Depending on the kind of stroke and the part of brain that is involved, this condition can cause irreversible brain damage and its subsequent disabilities. Serious attacks can lead to permanent paralysis on one side of the body or affect abilities such as speech, movement and memory. While some patients recover completely, two-thirds of stroke survivors suffer from some form of disability.