Brain ischemia is a condition in which the brain does not receive enough blood to meet its metabolic needs. The resulting lack of oxygen can lead to the death of brain tissue, and consequently to an ischemic stroke.
What is cerebral ischemia?
Cerebral ischemia is a disease caused by the reduction of blood intake (and consequently of oxygen) of the brain. There are two main forms of cerebral ischemia: focal ischemia, which is confined to a limited area of the brain tissue and it can be caused by a thrombus or an embolus that block the blood flow in an artery; The other form is called global ischemia because it involves more areas of the brain and it is characterized by reduction or interruption of blood flow to the brain. The result of cerebral ischemia is always a shortage of oxygen, which must be treated as soon as possible to avoid serious complications and consequences.
What are the causes of cerebral ischemia?
Cerebral ischemia may be the result of various causes. The most common causes include atherosclerosis of the vessels that carry blood to the brain, heart disease (especially atrial fibrillation) that can cause the formation of emboli through the bloodstream reach the brain vessels and cause obstruction, the disease of the small blood vessels that causes occlusion of small arterioles, which are recognized as predisposing factors for high blood pressure and diabetes. Moreover, there are more rare causes such as coagulation disorders, certain genetic diseases, the dissection of the cerebral vessels, the use of certain medications and drugs.
What are the symptoms of cerebral ischemia?
The severity of the symptoms of cerebral ischemia may vary. However, the most common symptoms include:
- Vision problems (such as blindness in one eye and double vision)
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficult to move and coordinate movement
- Loss of consciousness
- Sense of weakness in an arm, a leg to a half of the body or extended to the whole organism.
To prevent cerebral ischemia it is recommended not to smoke, to exercise regularly, to maintain normal weight, to limit alcohol consumption, to eat a healthy diet low in salt and regularly monitor blood pressure and blood sugar. Above the age of 50 it is useful to perform an ultrasound of the arteries that carry blood to the brain as well as an electrocardiogram and a cardiological examination (especially if you suffer from palpitations). If there are any particular risk factors, an antiplatelet or anticoagulant therapy can be prescribed.
The diagnosis of cerebral ischemia is generally based on the analysis of clinical symptoms. A careful medical history can also assume the cause of ischemia, but it can be difficult to identify with certainty.
Some of the necessary diagnostic tests include:
- Laboratory analysis testing for the possible presence of high blood pressure, anaemia, polycythaemia, or infections, hyper-coagulable states and evaluate the levels of blood lipids
- Pressure and heart rhythm monitoring
- MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging)
- CT scan (Computer tomography)
The treatment of cerebral ischemia in the acute phase involves medications that must be taken within 4 hours after the event, which can promote the reopening of the occluded blood vessel. Subsequently, the patient is prescribed antiplatelet drugs or anticoagulants. Additionally, it is recommended to perform regular monitoring and control of blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It is also recommended to start the rehabilitation process as soon as possible.