Blood Clot in the Brain: Symptoms, Signs & Treatment

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  • 0:04 Blood Clots in the Brain
  • 1:08 Signs and Symptoms
  • 3:12 Medical Treatments
  • 4:05 Lifestyle Treatments
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

Expert Contributor
Ana Benito Gonzalez

Ana has a PhD in Biology. She has taught college classes at leading U.S. universities, also works as a Biology tutor. She has published several scientific journals.

We are going to gain a better understanding of blood clots in the brain by learning the signs and symptoms that are associated with a blood clot in the brain and the ways in which this condition can be treated.

Blood Clots in the Brain

It has happened to you once again! You left work to drive home only to get stuck in traffic. Now every car and truck around you are very closely packed together. Why does this keep happening? Well, there is too much traffic for the number of lanes on the highway. Something similar to this can happen in our bodies as well.

Our blood vessels are a lot like a highway system for our blood: the blood contains cells, nutrients, proteins, and gases, which are like the cars and trucks. If the highway system is not as open as it should be to allow blood to flow through, then blood will flow too slowly, allowing a stationary blood clot called a thrombus to form. A thrombus may break loose and enter the bloodstream, which makes it an embolus.

A thrombus forming in or an embolus flowing to the brain can each cause a set of very unpleasant symptoms to occur in the body. If the blood clot is big enough to fully block a blood vessel, then a stroke may occur, which happens when there is a loss of blood supply to a portion of the brain, resulting in brain tissue death and/or damage.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of a thrombus forming in or an embolus flowing to the brain are the same, and they increase with the severity of the clot and are most prominent when the blood vessel is fully blocked and/or the clot is permanently stuck. Signs and symptoms will show up on the opposite side of the body from where the blood clot is located.

One of the most noticeable signs of a stroke is drooping on one side of the face. This is easiest to see when a person smiles. One side of the mouth will rise like it is supposed to and the other side will remain straight or even sag downward.

Weakness will also occur on one side of the body due to a blood clot in the brain. The arm and leg on one side may not be as strong as usual, which can make walking or lifting the arm difficult or impossible.

Headaches are a common complaint with a blood clot in the brain. They are also usually severe in nature. A problem with any part of the body usually makes that part hurt. The brain is no exception to this.

Some nerves tell the brain how the arms and legs feel, but brain damage prevents this from happening and causes numbness and tingling in one arm and leg. This symptom is similar to what you feel when your arm or leg 'goes to sleep.'

Damage to the brain can make it difficult for the brain to interpret what the optic nerves are communicating. As a result, there can be visual disturbances such as blurred or double vision. In extreme cases, vision may temporarily be lost completely.

The analytical centers in the brain may also get damaged from a blood clot and this causes confusion to set in. Simple things that are normally easily understood would be much more difficult to comprehend.

The areas that allow us to speak and understand what is being said when someone else speaks are located on the left side of the brain. So, if the blood clot is on the left side of the brain, then speaking and speech comprehension may become difficult or impossible.

Another part of our brains is responsible for helping us with balance and our ability to make coordinated movements. The loss of these abilities is also an indication that a blood clot is present in the brain.

Medical Treatments

If a blood clot in the brain happens, there are ways to treat it. Treating a blood clot in the brain works best when the treatments start as soon as the blood clot is present. The longer it takes to start treatment, the longer it takes to recover and the possibility of not recovering increases.

Anticoagulants, medications that prevent blood from clotting and current blood clots from getting any bigger, are a normal first line of treatment for blood clots in the brain. These are sometimes referred to as blood thinners.

Antiplatelets are medications that help to dissolve blood clots and keep new ones from forming. These are often used in conjunction with anticoagulants.

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Additional Activities

Blood Clot in the Brain: You Be the Doctor


Imagine you're the doctor on watch in the emergency room (ER). A 52-year-old woman arrives by ambulance with no previous history of blood clots. When you ask her what happened, she informs you that two hours ago, she experienced severe and sudden stomach pain and felt disoriented. When she collapsed on the floor, her husband called 911. As you begin your examination, you notice that she has cut her hand and that she is bleeding. Her blood pressure is high (150/90), and her medical records indicate that she has a long history of high blood pressure.

Right now, the patient is displaying weakness on the left side of her body and overall imbalance in her general posture; when you ask her to smile, only one side of her mouth moves. As she is talking to you, her level of consciousness seems to be decreasing.

Answer the following questions about the given scenario:

  • What are the main symptoms that indicate that your patient might be experiencing a blood clot in the brain?
  • What would your recommendation be in terms of immediate treatment?
  • Would you recommend any additional testing? What other tests may be needed to confirm that this woman is having a stroke?
  • In addition to medical treatment, what lifestyle changes would you suggest in order to decrease the patient's chances of experiencing another blood clot in the brain in the future?

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