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Stroke Overview

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Every year, millions of people around the world are impacted by a stroke. There are different types of strokes and many reasons why strokes may occur. One particularly challenging type of stroke is a cryptogenic stroke, where no cause is found. Read on to learn more about different types of stroke and the potential treatments that can help prevent another stroke.

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What is a Stroke?

Strokes are caused by either a sudden interruption in blood flow to a part of the brain or by bleeding within the brain tissue. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die, causing brain damage. When brain cells die during a stroke, the function controlled by that part of the brain, like speech or movement, may be impaired.

There are two major types of strokes: hemorrhagic stroke and ischemic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when damaged blood vessels in the brain allow bleeding into the brain tissue, resulting in swelling and pressure that damages the brain. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blockage develops in a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain.

Some of the common causes of an ischemic stroke are:


Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque from fat and cholesterol builds up and hardens the arteries. When too much plaque collects in one spot, it can block the blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke.

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF) is an irregular heartbeat. While many people with AFib live normal lives, the condition does put you at a certain risk of stroke. When the blood doesn’t move through the heart the way it should, blood clots can form and travel to the brain, causing a stroke.

What is a Cryptogenic Stroke?

A cryptogenic stroke is known as the stroke of “unknown cause”. It’s a type of ischemic stroke, and despite standard testing, no source or explanation can be found. It’s estimated that around 25% of all ischemic strokes are cryptogenic.¹

Potential causes for a cryptogenic stroke

Learn more about what can cause a cryptogenic stroke.

View causes
  1. Saver, J.L. Cryptogenic Stroke. NEJM 2016; 374: 2065-74.
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