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Types of Stroke

An illustration showing how a blood vessel can burst within the brain causing a hemorrhagic stroke, and how a blood clot within an artery of the brain can cause an ischemic stroke.The main types of stroke are

  • Ischemic stroke.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke.
  • Transient ischemic attack (a warning or “mini-stroke”).

Ischemic Stroke

Most strokes (85%) are ischemic strokes.1 If you have an ischemic stroke, the artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain becomes blocked.

Blood clots often cause the blockages that lead to ischemic strokes. Read more about factors that increase risk for ischemic stroke.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures (breaks open). The leaked blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them.

High blood pressure and aneurysms—balloon-like bulges in an artery that can stretch and burst—are examples of conditions that can cause a hemorrhagic stroke.

There are two types of hemorrhagic strokes:

  • Intracerebral hemorrhage is the most common type of hemorrhagic stroke. It occurs when an artery in the brain bursts, flooding the surrounding tissue with blood.
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage is a less common type of hemorrhagic stroke. It refers to bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissues that cover it.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is sometimes called a "mini-stroke." It is different from the major types of stroke because blood flow to the brain is blocked for only a short time—usually no more than 5 minutes.2

It is important to know that

  • A TIA is a warning sign of a future stroke.
  • A TIA is a medical emergency, just like a major stroke.
  • Strokes and TIAs require emergency care. Call 9-1-1 right away if you feel signs of a stroke or see symptoms in someone around you.
  • There is no way to know in the beginning whether symptoms are from a TIA or from a major type of stroke.
  • Like ischemic strokes, blood clots often cause TIAs.
  • More than a third of people who have a TIA end up having a major stroke within 1 year if they don’t receive treatment, and 10%-15% will have a major stroke within 3 months of a TIA.2

Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce the risk of a major stroke. If you have a TIA, your health care team can find the cause and take steps to prevent a major stroke.

Reference

  1. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012:e2–241.
  2. American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack).

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