What's to know about basal ganglia stroke?
Sometimes, a stroke can affect the basal ganglia, which not only helps to control motor movement but is also the message center of the brain.
What is a basal ganglia stroke?
A basal ganglia stroke can damage important functions in the brain.
Blood carries oxygen to the brain. When the blood flow to an area of the brain is restricted or stopped, the brain does not receive enough oxygen. Oxygen deprivation injures brain cells in that area, and they die as a result.
A collection of cell bodies called the basal ganglia lies deep in the center of the brain. The basal ganglia serve as the message center for a range of bodily functions.
This message center controls the following:
- muscle control
- some aspects of thinking
A basal ganglia stroke is dangerous as it affects this important area of the brain.
Types and causes
There are several types of basal ganglia stroke, all with different causes. The three main types are as follows:
This common stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a vessel carrying blood to the brain, making it impossible for blood to reach its target. An estimated 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic.
This less common type of stroke accounts for about 40 percent of all stroke deaths, according to the National Stroke Association.
This type of stroke occurs when blood leaks from a burst, torn, or unstable blood vessel into the tissue in the brain. The buildup of blood can create swelling, pressure, and, ultimately, brain damage.
Many basal ganglia strokes are hemorrhagic strokes, which often result from uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
People often describe these attacks as "mini-strokes."
More accurately, a TIA means that stroke-like symptoms occur for several minutes but always less than 24 hours. They resolve with no lasting damage. These events can be a warning sign that a more severe type of stroke might occur in the future.
Strokes have a common set of signs and symptoms. Everyone should be aware of these because recognizing them when they occur and taking action could help to save lives.
Typical symptoms include:
- sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body
- sudden confusion, speech difficulties, or cognitive problems
- a severe headache
- trouble walking and loss of balance and coordination
- sudden vision difficulties in one or both eyes
- a droopy, uneven smile
A basal ganglia stroke also has some unique signs and symptoms that might make it harder to identify than other types of stroke. These include:
- difficulty swallowing
- weak or very stiff muscles that restrict movement
- loss of awareness of one side of the body
- severe apathy
- personality changes
Anyone who notices these symptoms in themselves or others should seek immediate medical attention.
Treatment for a basal ganglia stroke depends on the type of stroke and how quickly a person receives medical attention.
If stroke victims reach the hospital in good time, they might receive a drug that breaks up the blood clots causing the stroke symptoms.
Those who have had hemorrhagic basal ganglia strokes might require surgery to relieve the increased pressure. A surgeon can insert a small device into the open artery to close it.
Larger bleeds might need more significant surgery and drainage.
Stroke recovery can take a long time. Some people might not recover fully from a basal ganglia stroke.
Any type of stroke can be life-threatening. However, rapid medical intervention can lead to a better recovery.
Recovering from a stroke can be a lengthy process. The outlook after a basal ganglia stroke depends mainly on the extent of the brain damage. If the stroke has only mildly damaged the basal ganglia, there is a higher chance of a good recovery.
One study found that people with damage to this area of the brain might have lasting effects.
Lasting effects from a basal ganglia stroke can include:
- Changes in sensation: People recovering from a basal ganglia stroke might experience difficulty feeling or acknowledging touch. This can make it problematic for them to monitor and control body movements.
- Loss of movement: As with all types of stroke, a basal ganglia stroke might cause lasting muscle weakness, particularly on the left side of the body.
- Having difficulty with starting, stopping, or sustaining movement: Damage to this area of the brain makes regulating movement difficult.
- Changes in personality: The stroke might make a person laugh or cry at times that do not seem to make sense to others. Many people also experience depression after a stroke.
- Change in judgment: Confusion is common after a stroke, which makes it hard to make decisions and think logically.
- Changes in speech: A person recovering from a stroke might mix up, forget, or invent words when speaking.
People at higher risk of stroke might wish to take preventative measures to minimize their risk. Being aware of the risk factors is, therefore, beneficial.
Statistics show that older African American, Alaska Native, and Native American adults are more likely to have strokes. However, people of all ages and ethnicities are at risk.
There are also medical risk factors, which include:
- a personal or family history of stroke
- previous TIA
- high blood pressure
- atrial fibrillation, a heart condition in which the upper chambers of the heart experience irregular contraction
- high cholesterol
- carotid artery disease, which is a narrowing of the arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain
It is vital to keep applying specific lifestyle measures to reduce the risk of stroke.
These measures include:
- maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise
- controlling blood pressure
- managing diabetes
- quitting smoking
- limiting alcohol use
While it is not possible to prevent every single risk factor, people can start taking steps immediately to reduce the possibility of a stroke.
How do I carry out first aid on a person having a basal ganglia stroke?
If someone is showing any of the symptoms listed above, call emergency services on 911 immediately.
While the ambulance is on the way, try and get the person experiencing stroke symptoms into a safe place and comfortable position, such as lying down on a stable surface.Sachin S. Kapur, MD, MS Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.