Stroke Hemorrhagic

Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by ruptured blood vessels in the brain. Blood escaping from the blood vessel damages surrounding tissue. Bleeding from the blood vessel also results in obstructed blood flow to other parts of the brain, causing damage similar to that caused by an ischemic stroke.

Causes: High Blood Pressure, Head Injury, and More

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the most common cause of hemorrhagic stroke. This is because high blood pressure makes blood vessels weak and brittle. A blood vessel weakened by high blood pressure may eventually rupture, causing a stroke. Controlling high blood pressure is the best way to reduce the risk of having a hemorrhagic stroke. The website About Hypertension offers more information on high blood pressure

Head injury can also cause blood vessels in the brain to tear or burst from sheer trauma. Head injury does not cause as many cases of hemorrhagic stroke as high blood pressure, however, head injury is often preventable. Wearing helmets, for instance, can reduce the risk of severe head trauma in children and adults who play sports or participate in other outdoor recreational activities.

In addition to high blood pressure and head injury, two other factors can result in hemorrhagic stroke. One condition that causes a high risk of hemorrhagic stroke is an aneurysm. This occurs when a weakened blood vessel “balloons” outwards, creating a weak area of the vessel. The aneurysm can rupture and bleed into the brain. Another high-risk condition is an arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, in which blood vessels form unusual clusters. An AVM is also more likely to rupture, causing bleeding in the brain.

Hemorrhagic Stroke Treatments

Often, treatment for hemorrhagic stroke must be administered immediately. Treatment varies from person to person, and depends on a variety of factors, including the location and cause of the hemorrhage and its effect on the brain.

If a stroke occurs, a patient will likely need immediate treatment in a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. In order to manage symptoms and control possible stroke complications, treatments in the hospital may include:

  • Administering medication to relieve headaches, prevent seizures and control brain swelling
  • Monitoring and controlling blood pressure
  • Monitoring the patient and helping to minimize physically stressful activities
  • Prescribing laxatives to prevent straining during bowel movement.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to drain fluid from the brain or remove the hemorrhage.

Types of Hemorrhagic Stroke

There are two distinct types of hemorrhagic stroke: intracerebral and subarachnoid. The two varieties are defined by the location of bleeding in the brain.

Intracerebral Hemorrhage

An intracerebral hemorrhage occurs when blood vessels bleed into surrounding brain tissue. In addition to damage caused by blood itself, ischemic damage may occur due to impaired blood flow. High blood pressure is usually the cause of intracerebral hemorrhage, although bleeding may also be caused by head injury or AVM rupture.

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage and Headache Symptoms

Subarachnoid hemorrhage describes bleeding between the skull and the brain, and often results from an aneurysm. Head injury, high blood pressure, and AVM can also cause this type of hemorrhagic stroke. A subarachnoid hemorrhage can also cause vasospasm — blood vessels surrounding the ruptured blood vessels constrict, restricting blood flow to parts of the brain and causing further brain tissue damage.

A subarachnoid hemorrhage has a high mortality and morbidity rate. The stroke proves fatal in fifty percent of cases. Of the survivors, fifty percent are permanently disabled. One major key to detecting a subarachnoid hemorrhage comes from the patient’s symptoms. During a subarachnoid hemorrhage, patients often describe having an “excruciating” headache, often calling the headache the worst they have ever experienced. When this type of headache occurs, seek medical attention immediately.

Stroke or Headache?

Severe headaches should not be dismissed. A sudden, extremely painful headache may be a symptom of a hemorrhagic stroke. Since prompt medical attention is essential for stroke victims, having a severe headache evaluated early is key.


American Stroke Association. (nd). What are the types of stroke? Retrieved February 17, 2004, from

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2003). Stroke: Causes. Retrieved February 17, 2004, from 821670F1635148