Medications for stroke work in different ways. Some help prevent stroke, while others can help treat a stroke during an emergency. These medications include tissue plasminogen activators, antiplatelets, and anticoagulants.
A stroke occurs when either an artery bursts or a blockage in the arteries prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching the brain.
When this occurs, brain cells in part of the brain can start to die off
Medications for stroke aim to:
- help break up blood clots
- reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- help prevent blood clots
Once a person has had a stroke, they have about a
This article will provide information on the available medications to help prevent and treat a stroke.
The following table provides an overview of the medications available to treat a stroke:
|Type||Examples||Use||Potential side effects|
|tissue plasminogen activator (tPA)||tPA injection, or Alteplase||breaks up a clot that is causing the stroke||• bleeding|
• pulmonary edema
• arterial embolism
• deep vein thrombosis
• swelling of the lips and tongue
• intracranial hemorrhage
• nausea and vomiting
• thromboembolism, a type of blood clot
|reduce the ability of platelets in the blood to clump together||• headaches|
• heart palpitations
• bleeding risks
|help keep the blood from clotting||• excessive bleeding|
• itchy skin
• hair loss
• nausea and vomiting
|help lower cholesterol||• nausea|
• feeling weak
• sleep problems
|blood pressure medication||calcium channel blockers, including:|
• diltiazem hydrochloride
• verapamil hydrochloride
• amlodipine besylate
angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, including:
• enalapril maleate
• fosinopril sodium
• quinapril hydrochloride
• benazepril hydrochloride
other blood pressure medications include:
• angiotensin II receptor blockers
• alpha blockers
|help lower blood pressure||• erection issues|
• tiredness or fatigue
To treat a stroke, a doctor may administer the tPA, called Alteplase, which can help break up a blood clot.
A doctor will likely administer tPA if a person reaches a hospital within the first
The medication can help improve a person’s chance of recovering from a stroke. However, many people do not reach the emergency room in time, meaning they might not be able to benefit from the medication.
Doctors administer the medication directly into the veins so that it reaches the clot quickly.
Side effects can occur in
- pulmonary edema, a buildup of fluid in the lungs
- arterial embolism, a type of blood clot
- deep vein thrombosis
- swelling of the lips and tongue
- intracranial hemorrhage, a bleed in the skull or brain
- thromboembolism, a type of blood clot
Antiplatelet medications help prevent platelets in the blood from sticking together, which assists in preventing blood clotting.
A doctor may prescribe this type of medication to help prevent ischemic strokes or transient ischemic attacks. Ischemic strokes account for
A transient ischemic attack occurs when blood temporarily does not reach the brain, but the condition resolves quickly with no damage. However, they may be an early warning sign of a stroke.
Some examples of antiplatelet drugs
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A person’s doctor will assess a person’s needs and recommend dosing for the medication.
Headaches and heart palpitations are common side effects. People may also have an
Anticoagulants prevent the blood from clotting easily. A doctor may prescribe them to help prevent ischemic stroke.
However, experts do not recommend these for everyone. People with bleeding conditions should avoid this type of medication. Those with liver or kidney issues may also want to avoid using these medications.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) states that anticoagulants can lead to excessive bleeding. Signs of excessive bleeding include:
- blood in the urine
- blood in the stool
- severe bruising
- vomiting or coughing up blood
- prolonged nosebleeds, that last longer than 10 minutes
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing
- back pain
- increased bleeding during periods
Other side effects include:
- itchy skin
- hair loss
- nausea and vomiting
Several statins have approval for use in the United States, which include:
- simvastatin (Zocor)
- atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- lovastatin (Altoprev)
- fluvastatin (Lescol)
- pravastatin (Pravachol)
- pitavastatin (Livalo)
- rosuvastatin (Crestor)
Statins can cause side effects, including:
- feeling weak
- sleep problems
- muscle weakness
Uncommon side effects include:
- being sick
- hair loss
- hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver
- pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas
In rare cases, statins can cause muscle weakness, tendon problems, and peripheral neuropathy. This is a loss of sensation or tingling in the feet and hands.
According to a
Blood pressure medication helps lower high blood pressure. High blood pressure typically shows
Medications for blood pressure can help prevent plaque from breaking free of the artery wall and causing a stroke.
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Calcium channel blockers
Examples of calcium channel blockers include:
- bepridil (Vasocor)
- diltiazem hydrochloride (Cardizem CD, Cardizem SR, Dilacor XR, and Tiazac)
- nisoldipine (Sular)
- verapamil hydrochloride (Calan SR, Covera HS, Isoptin SR, and Verelan)
- felodipine (Plendil)
- isradipine (DynaCirc and DynaCirc CR)
- nicardipine (Cardene SR)
- amlodipine besylate (Norvasc and Lotrel)
- nifedipine (Adalat CC and Procardia XL)
ACE inhibitors help block a chemical known as angiotensin, a chemical responsible for narrowing the arteries. By blocking angiotensin, the medication helps the blood flow more freely through the arteries.
Examples of ACE inhibitors include:
- trandolapril (Mavik)
- captopril (Capoten)
- enalapril maleate (Vasotec)
- ramipril (Altace)
- fosinopril sodium (Monopril)
- lisinopril (Prinivel or Zestril)
- moexipril (Univasc)
- perindopril (Aceon)
- quinapril hydrochloride (Accupril)
- benazepril hydrochloride (Lotensin)
These medications can cause different side effects, including difficulty achieving and maintaining erections, fatigue, nausea, headaches, and nervousness.
Several different types of medication can help prevent stroke. They include:
- blood pressure medications, such as calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors
A person should work with a doctor to determine the best medication to help them prevent having a stroke in the future.
If a person recognizes the signs of stroke in themselves or someone they are with, they should call 911.
Paramedics can diagnose and start treating the stroke immediately. If a person seeks medical attention within
A person should speak with a doctor about how to take each medication. They should take all medication as a healthcare professional prescribes and consult a doctor before stopping any medication.
Some medications may require food, while others only need a drink to help swallow the pills. A person should read all labels carefully before taking their medications.
People who need help paying for their medications could use different financial aid options.
There are several programs exist that can help a person in need of financial assistance for medication. They can access a list of organizations to apply for help
Often, they will need basic information, including:
- names and dosage of current medications
- monthly or yearly income
- insurance provider, if any
- state of residency
Another potential source of help could come from the doctor or pharmacy. They may be able to provide coupons to help reduce the cost or recommend cheaper generic brands as substitutes.
Medications for stroke aim to either prevent or help treat one if it occurs. Most medications aim to reduce the recurrence of stroke either by making it easier for blood to flow through the body or reducing cholesterol levels in the blood.
A person should follow all dosing and other instructions that the doctor gives them. They should also not stop taking medications without consulting a doctor first. If an individual experiences side effects, they should let the doctor know.