Stroke Awareness - What You Need To Know
What is a stroke?
A stroke is a loss of brain function due to a decrease in blood flow to part of the brain caused by a blockage or a leakage. A stroke is classed as medical emergency as it can cause brain damage or death. Strokes are the primary cause of disability in the United States and Europe and the second most common cause of death worldwide.
What causes a stroke?
There are several risk factors for a stroke, these include advanced age, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation and cigarette smoking. If a person has suffered a previous stroke or a Transient ischaemic attack they have a higher chance of having a stroke in the future. A Transient Ischaemic attack also known as a mini stroke, has similar symptoms but the effect usually lasts less than 24 hours. If a person has a stroke risk factor, early detection and management of this factor can reduce the risk of a stroke.
What are the symptoms of a stroke?
Stroke symptoms all come on suddenly and can include;
- Dizziness, loss of balance and movement control
- Difficulty speaking or understanding words
- Blurred or loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Weakness or numbness in the face, arms or legs, especially if it affects one side of the body.
The FAST test is the quick and easy check to be used if a stroke is suspected. It is as follows;
- Face - is the smile drooping on one side
- Arms - raise both arms up, is one arm weak?
- Speech - is the speech difficult to understand, slurred, slow or jumbled?
- Time - if you suspect a stroke, act fast and call emergency services or hospital
What are the treatments available to a stroke victim?
Strokes fall into two categories, ischemic and hemorrhagic. An interruption of the blood supply causes an ischemic stroke, while abnormal vascular structure or a rupture of a blood vessel results in a hemorrhagic stroke. When a person suffers a stroke they should be admitted to a specialist stroke unit with the treatment they are prescribed dependent on the type of stroke that they have suffered.
The immediate treatment for ischemic stroke includes drugs and or surgery to break up any blood clots present in the patient and to make blood less likely to clot. In contrast the drugs prescribed to treat a hemorrhagic stroke aim to increase clotting and stop bleeding and surgery may be required to remove blood from the brain that can cause swelling in the brain and result in brain damage.