Blood clots form to prevent blood loss when a blood vessel ruptures or is cut. Normally, this process protects the body; however, when a blood clot forms and cuts off the blood supply to a part of the brain, the result can be an ischemic stroke. An ischemic stroke can be classified as either caused by a thrombus or an embolus. An embolic stroke is caused by a blood clot that moves from another part of the body to occlude an artery that supplies the brain. A thrombotic stroke is caused by a blood clot that forms in and occludes an artery that supplies the brain. In either case, when the blood supply is cut off from a part of the brain, oxygen and other nutrients cannot be delivered to that part of the brain and cells begin to die. There are causes for blood clot in brain and the treatments vary depending on the each condition.
Causes of Blood Clot in Brain
There are several conditions that can cause a blood clot in the brain:
- Atherosclerosis. During the aging process, fat and plaque can begin to build up in arteries. This build-up leads to narrowing of the arteries or atherosclerosis. This narrowing can result in a thrombotic stroke.
- Brain Injury. Injury to the brain from trauma can cause bleeding and a blood clot to form in the skull. The bleeding from a traumatic brain injury can lead to compression of the brain.
- Heart Conditions. Many heart conditions can lead to blood clots within the cardiovascular system. The clots that cause a heart attack or problems with valves in the heart can dislodge and move into and occlude arteries that supply the brain. People with atrial fibrillation will usually be prescribed anti-clotting medications since they are prone to develop blood clots.
- Other Causes. Life-style choices such as smoking and obesity can make a person more vulnerable to strokes caused by blood clots. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or any of a number of clotting disorders, you may be more prone to blood clots in the brain.
Symptoms of Blood Clot in Brain
Symptoms of a stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain will vary depending on the size of the artery that is blocked and the area of the brain that is affected. Symptoms may be sudden and severe or may develop over time. Some of the common symptoms of a blood clot in the brain are:
- Recurring Headaches. Headaches that recur often for no particular reason may be one of the earliest signs of a problem. The headache may be on one side of the head and may result in confusion or dizziness.
- Seizures. Seizures in someone who has never had a seizure may be caused by a blood clot in the brain. If someone is having a seizure, call for help, stay with the person, and protect him from injury by turning him on his side if possible. Do not put anything in his mouth.
- Speech Problems. Depending on the part of the brain that is affected, you may notice slurred or garbled speech.
- Facial Weakness or Paralysis. If you suspect a blood clot, ask the person to smile or show his teeth; his face may be asymmetrical or one side of his mouth may droop. He may also have weakness, numbness or paralysis in his leg or arm on one side of his body.
- Blurred Vision. A blood clot in the brain can cause visual disturbances including blurred vision, tunnel vision, double vision or complete vision loss in one or both eyes.
- Poor Coordination. Finally, you may notice that the person has lost coordination and a sense of balance.
Diagnosis and Treatments of Blood Clot in Brain
A blood clot in the brain is usually diagnosed through the use of a CT scan or Magnetic Resonance Angiography. These specialized x-rays can locate the cause of the problem and identify the area of the brain that is affected. Other tests that will be done include an electrocardiogram, blood clotting tests, a blood count, cholesterol and blood sugar tests, and ongoing blood pressure and heart rhythm monitoring.
Blood clots in brain are highly likely to develop into a stroke. Treatment for a stroke will depend on the cause. The earlier the treatment begins, the better the prognosis for full recovery. Clinicians talk about the "Golden Hour" for stroke treatment. If a person is treated within one hour after stroke symptoms begin, prognosis is much improved. Some of the treatments for a blood clot on the brain include:
- Tissue Plasminogen Activator (TPA). TPA is a drug that can be given to dissolve a blood clot. Used first with heart attack victims, TPA is now one of the first-line options for treatment of stroke victims.
- Anticoagulants. Anti-clotting medications can be used to prevent new blood clots from forming.
- Antiplatelet Agents. These drugs can be tried when a stroke is caused by a clot but should be avoided when the stroke is caused by active bleeding in the brain.
- Prescribed Steroids. Steroids may be used to reduce inflammation and swelling caused by the blood clot.
- Carotid Endarterectomy. A surgical option, a carotid endarterectomy can be done in the operating room to remove plaque in the carotid arteries.
- Surgery. If a blood clot is causing major blockage, an embolectomy can sometimes be done to remove the clot. If the clot cannot be removed, through the artery, a neurosurgeon may be called on to make an incision into the skull to remove the clot.
- Therapies. Speech, occupational and physical therapy are often needed after a stroke to regain functionality that was lost or impaired due to the stroke.
- Psychotherapy. A stroke can lead to major depression as the individual struggles with functionality that has been lost. Psychotherapy sessions may help the person deal with the depression.
There are no home remedies for a blood clot on the brain. However, there are some steps you can take to avoid this problem:
- Avoid Prolonged Sitting. Prolonged sitting can cause blood clots to form in your legs; these clots can then travel to your heart, lungs, or brain. At work or during travel, get up and walk every two hours. If you are driving, stop the car and walk around for a few minutes every couple of hours.
- Move. After you have had surgery, your surgeon will want you to get out of bed as soon as possible. Before you can get up, the surgeon may order compression stockings to prevent clots in your legs that can move to your brain.
- Change Your Lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle with a good diet and regular exercise will help you stay at a healthy weight and lower your chance for diabetes and high blood pressure. If you smoke, STOP!
When to See a Doctor
A blood clot to the brain is a life-threatening event. You should get immediate help if you develop:
- Shortness of breath without activity
- Chest pain that does not subside within a few minutes
- Any weakness or asymmetry in strength in your face, arms or legs
- Difficulty speaking or understanding someone else's speech
- Vision changes
- Unexplained recurrent headaches