Difference between Ischemic and Hemorrhagic Stroke

A stroke is one of the most debilitating medical events anyone can suffer, and the causes for a stroke have to do with the blood in the brain. There are two main types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic, and this article will explain the difference between them.


ischemic stroke
Brain affected by an ischemic stroke

An ischemic stroke is a stroke that occurs when there is a lack of blood flow to the brain. There are a variety of reasons why this may happen, including:

  1. Blood clots.
  2. Blood flow is blocked due to an embolus (mass) in the veins.
  3. Hypoperfusion (a lack of blood supply, e.g. from shock)

Symptoms of an ischemic stroke include numbness on one side of the body, a decrease in motor skills or speech, and poor reflexes. Treatment of an ischemic stroke involves getting rid of the blood obstruction, though the damage has usually been done by that point. Risk factors for ischemic stroke include high blood pressure, smoking tobacco, and obesity, and preventing these can reduce the chance of an ischemic stroke. The picture above shows a CT-scan of a brain affected by an ischemic stroke.

hemorrhagic stroke
Brain affected by a hemorrhagic stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke is a stroke occurring from bleeding in the brain. This can happen due to intracranial hemorrhage, or the accumulation of blood in the cranial vault due to bleeding in the brain area; or a cerebral hemorrhage, which is bleeding in the brain tissue itself. The reasons for these include aneurysms, head injury and the use of drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines. Prevention includes leading a healthy lifestyle, not using the aforementioned drugs, and monitoring health when suffering a head injury.  Symptoms of a hemorrhagic stroke also include numbness on one side of the face and a decrease in speech and motor skills. Treatment involves healing the head injury or staunching the bleeding. The picture above shows a hemorrhagic stroke.

Comparison chart

Ischemic Stroke Hemorrhagic Stroke
Caused by lack of blood flow to the brain. Caused by hemorrhaging (bleeding) in the brain.
Usually caused by blood clot or obstruction. Usually caused by aneurysms, or head injury.
More common form of stroke. Less common form of stroke.

Ischemic vs Hemorrhagic Stroke

What are the differences between an ischemic and a hemorrhagic stroke? The main difference is in the way the stroke occurs.

An ischemic stroke happens when there is a lack of blood flow to the brain. This can be caused by a variety of issues, usually relating to a blood clot or obstruction/embolus in the veins. A hemorrhagic stroke, however, occurs when there is bleeding in the brain. This can be caused by head injury, high blood pressure leading to aneurysms, or drug use. Additionally, hemorrhagic strokes are often accompanied by very severe headaches before the stroke occurs, where this symptom isn’t as commonly present in ischemic strokes.

The primary difference, then, is that ischemic strokes are caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain, and hemorrhagic strokes are caused by bleeding in the brain.


The video below explains some differences between ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes.