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The most common treatments for an ischemic stroke are various forms of medication, usually those which dissolve blood clots or thin the blood. Anti-platelet medications may also be used to prevent future clotting from occurring in patients who have had a previous stroke or who are susceptible to strokes. Surgery is typically used for large clots or those which do not respond well to medicinal treatments. Additional therapies may be needed to allow patients to fully recover from post-stroke symptoms.
An ischemic stroke is a condition which occurs when a blood vessel or artery is blocked off by a blood clot. Clots can form either inside the brain itself, or clots or plaque can form elsewhere inside the body and travel upwards into the brain. Symptoms of a stroke can include numbness in the face, head, hands, arms, and legs. Patients may also experience vision changes, slurred speech or other speech problems, confusion, lack of balance, and unusual headache symptoms. Individuals who experience one or more of these symptoms should seek emergency medical care.
The treatment a health care provider will choose for ischemic stroke will depend on the location and size of the clot. Smaller blood clots may be removed using a medication which dissolves the clot itself or thins the blood. The underlying cause of clotting should then be investigated to prevent additional strokes from occurring.
Additional medications may be needed following a stroke to prevent future occurrences. These usually thin the blood and reduce platelets to cut down on the risk of clotting. Those with underlying health conditions may receive other treatments as well.
If an ischemic stroke is caused by a very large clot, medication may be not effective at removing it. When this occurs, surgery is often the most effective treatment. Surgical procedures are generally used to either manually remove the clot or widen the arteries leading to the vein so that blood may move more freely. Medication is often used as a follow-up treatment in order to make surgery more effective.
Ischemic strokes can cause long-term health complications if not quickly treated. Lack of blood flow to the brain for extended periods can lead to permanent brain damage. Strokes are more common among the elderly, but they can also occur in younger individuals. This risk rises in those with certain health conditions, such as diabetes or obesity.