According to the Stroke Association, stroke strikes every 5 minutes in the UK. Therefore, knowing the essentials, what it is, symptoms to look out for and how it can be treated is essential.
Basically, stoke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is cut off. Your brain needs oxygen to survive so when this is cut off it can have detrimental effects to your body and possibly cause death.
Even through stroke occurs suddenly and symptoms are not experienced over a gradual period of time, it can be down to a serious cause.
The main causes of stroke are:
Ischaemic strokes: This occurs when a blood clot has formed in an organ that supplies your brain blood and blocks the blood supply. It is the main cause of stroke.
Haemorrhagic strokes: This occurs when a blood vessel ruptures, this causes a bleed inside the brain.
Another cause is a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) also known as a mini-stroke. A mini-stroke happens when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted. The symptoms are the same as a full stroke but they effects are not permanent. This is still a serious attack and must be treated in hospital, mini-stokes are often signs that a full stroke will happen.
Symptoms of stroke:
Strokes act fast and the longer it takes to get medical help, the more life threatening it is. As mentioned, it’s important you know the signs of a stroke. That’s why F.A.S.T was created.
Face – Has their face dropped on one side? Can they smile?
Arms – Weakness and numbness is usually felt during a stroke. Can they lift their arms and keep them there?
Speech – Is their speech slurred or unclear? Can they understand what you are saying?
Time – Act fast, it’s time to call 999 if you see the three signs.
There are other risk factors associated to stroke. It may not cause a stroke like a blood clot or a ruptured vessel but it can increase your chances of one.
Risk factors such as high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease can all be contributing factors.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) increases your risk of having a stroke by around 4-5 times. This is due to an increased risk of a blood clot forming in the upper chambers of your heart.
Diagnosing and treating a stroke
An urgent brain scan is an essential part of diagnosis and damage control with a stroke. It will be able to tell if the stroke was caused by a blood clot or ruptured blood vessel. It can see where the stroke has taken place and how severe it is.
A swallow test is a test in which a person is given a teaspoon if water and asked to swallow. If they struggle to swallow and start choking or coughing, they will need to be referred to a speech and language specialist. This is necessary because speech is an early symptom of stroke.
Other tests such as blood tests, ultrasounds and echocardiograms are all very useful in the diagnosis of stroke.
If you have had an ischaemic stroke or hemorrhagic stroke then medication will be given for a short time to prevent another stroke happening.
The blood clot will need to be broken down for the blood flow to resume, a thrombolysis injection called alteplase will be used to do this. The best time for this injection is within 4 hours of the stroke and after a brain scan has taken place.
Another way to remove the blood clot is to have a thrombectomy which is a surgical procedure. It uses a small device passed through a catheter to eradicate the blood clot. This is for emergency and severe cases.
Other methods of treatment are also possible like anticoagulants and antiplatelets used to treat stroke.
If a hemorrhagic stroke has taken place then a craniotomy may be needed to repair the ruptured blood vessels and clear any blood from the brain.
Depending on the severity of the stroke, there is usually a long road to overall recovery and a patient may need lots of after care and support while they regain speech, movement and more.
The Stroke Association give great advice when it comes to after care.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.