Stroke is a serious, life-threatening medical condition that occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or more commonly when blood supply to part of the brain is cut off due to a developed blockage. When this happens, the brain does not get enough oxygen or nutrients causing the brain cells to die. Without urgent treatment stroke can result in serious disability or death.
What causes stroke?
There are three different forms of stroke with different specific causes.
Ischemic Stroke. It is the most common form of stroke, accounting nearly 9 out of 10 strokes. This type of stroke is caused by blockages or narrowing of the arteries that provide blood to the brain, resulting in ischemia – severely reducing blood flow. Blood clots or fatty deposits often cause these blockages. Blood clots either develop on the spot or travel through the bloodstream from elsewhere in the body. Fatty deposits called plaque can cause narrowing within the arteries.
Hemorrhagic stroke. This type of stroke is less common but far more likely to be fatal. It occurs when a weakened artery in the brain either leaks blood or bursts causing bleeding inside the brain that can be difficult to stop. Arteries can burst due to high blood pressure, trauma, blood-thinning medications and aneurysms (weaknesses in blood vessel walls allow blood pressure to distend the artery wall wider than usual and bulge).
Transient ischemic attack (TIA) – often called a “mini stroke” is different from the above two kinds of stroke, because the blood flow to the brain is temporarily interrupted, causing symptoms similar to an actual stroke. When the blood flows again, the symptoms disappear. A TIA is a warning sign that a stroke may happen soon. Therefore, it is critical to seek emergency medical help even if it is a TIA.
Symptoms of stroke
The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered and tested with the word FAST: Face-Arms-Speech-Time.
Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or his/her mouth or eye may have dropped.
Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them lifted because of arm weakness or numbness in one arm.
Speech – their speech may be slurred or the person may not be able to talk at all despite being awake.
Time – is crucial. Call emergency at 103 immediately if any symptoms are present.
Every second is crucial when seeking treatment for a stroke, because brain cells begin dying within minutes when deprived of oxygen. Once brain tissue has died, the body parts controlled by that area won’t work properly and can cause long-term disability. Therefore, the faster a person with suspected stroke receives medical attention, the better their prognosis and the less likely they will experience lasting damage or death. In order for a stroke patient to get the best diagnosis and treatment, they will need to be treated at a hospital within 3 hours of first appearing their symptoms.
…To be continued in next edition