What is a cerebral infarction?

Every organ in the body requires an adequate amount of blood flow to function properly and stay in good working order. When an organ is deprived of blood by a blocked or damaged artery, tissues can die, causing the organ to fail or be permanently damaged. A stroke is when blood is cut off from the brain, leading to tissue damage, stroke, and possible death.

There are two types of stroke, depending on where the damage occurs. A stroke occurs when the cerebral cortex is deprived of blood due to damage to the carotid arteries. The lower part of the brain receives most of its blood from the vertebral arteries, leading to brainstem infarction when the blood supply is cut off. Both types of heart attacks can cause serious complications, including brain damage or even death.

A cerebral infarction will often have immediate symptoms consistent with a stroke. Motor skill problems, dizziness, numbness, or paralysis may occur. Some patients may lose their vision or begin to see double, and may have difficulty speaking clearly. Sudden headaches, nausea, or vomiting can also be signs of a stroke. Anyone who is at risk of having a stroke should be treated with immediate medical attention if any symptoms appear. Prompt treatment can save lives or prevent serious harm, although in some cases the condition simply cannot be treated quickly enough to save a patient.

Because blocked arteries are a major contributing factor to stroke or heart attack, people who smoke or have high cholesterol levels may be considered high risk for the condition. People with medical conditions or on medications that can cause blood clots may also have a higher risk of stroke. Some recent studies have also indicated that patients with sleep apnea or chronic snoring may also be at risk.

Because the function of arteries generally declines with age, the elderly are considered to be at increased risk of stroke. However, the condition can arise at any age and is also associated with childhood or fetal brain damage. Since not all types of heart attacks are symptomatic or occur suddenly, even healthy adults can have a growing heart attack and not be aware of it. A "silent heart attack" without symptoms can be as serious as a heart attack with sudden onset, and may be more difficult to diagnose due to the lack of symptoms.

Long-term effects and prognosis may depend on the severity of the damage and how quickly the condition is treated. Drug treatment may be available to increase blood flow to the affected area and clear blocked arteries. As with many conditions, starting treatment as soon as possible appears to be a key factor in successful recovery.

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