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Patient education: Hemorrhagic stroke (The Basics)
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Patient education: Hemorrhagic stroke (The Basics)
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
Literature review current through: Feb 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 24, 2015.

What is a hemorrhagic stroke? — Stroke is the term doctors use when a part of the brain is damaged because it goes without blood for too long. The word "hemorrhage" means bleeding. In a hemorrhagic stroke, the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off because a blood vessel in or on the brain starts bleeding.

How can you tell if someone is having a stroke? — To tell if someone is having a stroke, just think of the word "FAST" (figure 1). Each letter in the word stands for one of the things to watch for:

Face – Does the person's face look uneven or droop to one side?

Arm – Does the person have weakness or numbness in one or both arms? Does one arm drift down if the person tries to hold both arms out?

Speech – Is the person having trouble speaking? Does his or her speech sound strange?

Time – If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1. You need to act FAST and get to a hospital. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances of recovery.

Sometimes, people get a severe headache that starts all of a sudden when they have a hemorrhagic stroke.

How are hemorrhagic strokes treated? — In the hospital, your doctor might:

Give you medicines and other treatments to reduce the brain damage caused by the bleeding

Give you medicines to lower your blood pressure, if your blood pressure is too high

Stop any medicines you take that thin the blood or prevent it from clotting. If you take blood-thinning medicines, he or she might give you treatments to help your blood clot so that you stop bleeding.

Do tests to figure out the cause of the bleeding

Watch the pressure in your brain to make sure that it doesn't get too high

Some people are also treated with surgery, depending on their symptoms and other factors. Doctors can do surgery to:

Remove a collection of blood, if it is pressing down on the brain or causing the brain to swell

Stop the bleeding in the brain and fix the blood vessel that was bleeding

Can hemorrhagic strokes be prevented? — Sometimes. You can lower your chance of having a hemorrhagic stroke by:

Getting treated for high blood pressure – This is very important, because untreated high blood pressure is a common cause of hemorrhagic strokes. Treatment can involve lifestyle changes, diet changes, and medicines.

Not smoking

Not using illegal drugs

If an abnormal blood vessel was the cause of the stroke, surgery can sometimes be done to fix it and prevent it from bleeding again.

What happens after a stroke? — Some people recover from a stroke without any long-term problems or with only minor problems. But many people have serious problems after a stroke. For example, they might be unable to speak or feed themselves, or they might be unable to move one side of their body.

After a stroke, people are also more likely to get other medical problems. These can include blood clots in the legs, heart problems, bed sores, or lung infections. Your doctor or nurse will try to prevent these problems from happening and will treat them if they do happen.

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Topic 16221 Version 3.0

All topics are updated as new information becomes available. Our peer review process typically takes one to six weeks depending on the issue.