An ischemic stroke occurs if an artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain becomes blocked. Blood clots often cause the blockages that lead to ischemic strokes.
The two types of ischemic stroke are thrombotic (throm-BOT-ik) and embolic (em-BOL-ik). In a thrombotic stroke, a blood clot (thrombus) forms in an artery that supplies blood to the brain.
In an embolic stroke, a blood clot or other substance (such as plaque, a fatty material) travels through the bloodstream to an artery in the brain. (A blood clot or piece of plaque that travels through the bloodstream is called an embolus.)
With both types of ischemic stroke, the blood clot or plaque blocks the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the brain.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs if an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures (breaks open). The pressure from the leaked blood damages brain cells.
The two types of hemorrhagic stroke are intracerebral (in-trah-SER-e-bral) and subarachnoid (sub-ah-RAK-noyd). In an intracerebral hemorrhage, a blood vessel inside the brain leaks blood or ruptures.
In a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a blood vessel on the surface of the brain leaks blood or ruptures. When this happens, bleeding occurs between the inner and middle layers of the membranes that cover the brain.
In both types of hemorrhagic stroke, the leaked blood causes swelling of the brain and increased pressure in the skull. The swelling and pressure damage cells and tissues in the brain.