The major kinds of brain stem stroke are ischemic and hemorrhagic, states NYU Langone Medical Center. In an ischemic stroke, blood flow is blocked, while a burst blood vessel leads to a hemorrhagic stroke. Both types occur in the part of the brain right above the spinal cord.
Several complications lead to an ischemic stroke. Blood flow is sometimes interrupted because a blood clot that breaks off somewhere in the body, flows through the blood and becomes lodged in a vessel leading to the brain, according to NYULMC. In certain cases, a clot develops in an artery that delivers blood to the brain. Alternately, the artery may develop a tear. In a hemorrhagic stroke, blood from a broken vessel pools in the brain, increasing pressure.
Certain individuals are more susceptible to strokes, including people who have a family history of the condition or who are over 55, NYULMC explains. People with African American, Latino or Asian-Pacific ancestors are in the high-risk group. Cocaine, amphetamine or heroin abuse, smoking, and an inactive lifestyle increases the risk of stroke. Diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and hardening of the arteries are also risk factors.
Symptoms of a brain stem stroke include weakness or paralysis, vision or hearing difficulties, vertigo, and balance problems, advises NYULMC. Breathing, chewing, swallowing and speaking become difficult. Some victims fall into comas.