What Everyone Should Know About Stroke Symptoms
Any person can experience a stroke at any time. Strokes may range in severity from mild strokes that cause temporary weaknesses to major strokes that may cause one side of the body to be permanently paralyzed or to lose the ability to speak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 795,000 Americans suffer strokes each year.
The CDC reports that strokes are the fifth leading cause of death and are also a leading cause of disability. The National Stroke Association reports that someone dies from a stroke in the U.S. every four minutes. The NSA also reports that 80 percent of strokes are preventable. It is important for people to understand strokes, the causes, and symptoms, so they can get medical care immediately when they first start having strokes.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. This causes some of the brain cells to die because of oxygen deprivation. When the brain cells die, the areas of the body that the region of the brain controls will be affected. The effects on the abilities will depend on where the stroke happens in the brain and how extensive the damage to the brain is.
Symptoms and Causes
The American Heart Association identifies several causes of stroke in its 2018 statistical update. People have a higher risk of suffering strokes if they smoke, are overweight or obese, have high blood pressure, have heart disease, or have diabetes. The Mayo Clinic reports that people may suffer ischemic strokes, which are caused by blockages in the arteries, or hemorrhagic strokes, which are caused by vessels that are leaking or that burst.
The symptoms that you or your loved one might be having a stroke include the following:
- Difficulty walking
- Trouble talking or slurred speech
- Numbness or paralysis of the leg, arm, or face
- Trouble seeing from one or both eyes
If you see your loved one showing any of these symptoms, you need to seek immediate medical attention. This is important even if the symptoms seem to disappear. Look at your loved one and see if one side of his or her mouth droops when he or she smiles. See if he or she has trouble raising one arm when you ask him or her to raise them both. Ask him or her to repeat a phrase and listen to see if he or she has slurred speech or sounds odd. If you see these signs are starting to experience them yourself, call 911.
According to the Mayo Clinic, your doctor may do several different things to diagnose your stroke. You may undergo a physical examination to see if the symptoms that you noticed are still present. Your doctor will check your blood pressure and ask about your family’s medical history. The doctor may listen with a stethoscope to the carotid artery in your neck and may check your eyes for small blood clots at the back of them.
After the physical exam, the doctor may give you several different blood tests and a CT scan. The CT scan can show the area of your brain that may be affected. He or she may also use an MRI to get a more detailed view of your brain and its blood vessels. Other diagnostic tests that you may be given include a carotid artery ultrasound, an echocardiogram, and a cerebral angiogram.
The treatments that you might receive after a stroke will depend on whether your stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic. If you are having an ischemic stroke, your doctor may inject you with drugs that bust clots. These drugs are called tissue plasminogen activators and need to be given within four and one-half hours of the start of your stroke. Getting these drugs quickly can help to reduce the symptoms and damage that you might otherwise suffer.
Your doctor may also perform endovascular procedures inside of your blocked vessel, including inserting a catheter into a vessel near your groin and threading it up to your brain to deliver medications directly to the clot. The doctor may remove the clot with an instrument called a stent retriever. Your doctor may also recommend treatments to help to prevent you from having strokes in the future. These treatments may include procedures to open blocked arteries by using stents and performing angioplasties on your narrowed arteries.
If you are experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke, the emergency treatment that you will undergo will be focused on relieving pressure from your brain and controlling your bleeding. If you are prescribed blood thinners, your doctor might administer drugs to counteract their effects. Your doctor may perform a surgical repair of the blood vessel that is leaking or that has burst, including the following surgeries:
- Surgical clipping
- Surgical removal
- Stereotactic radiosurgery
After your emergency treatment, you may undergo rehabilitation while you recover under the care of a treatment team.
According to Up to Date, the outcome of a stroke will depend on multiple factors, including its severity, your age, its location, any comorbid conditions, the mechanism of your stroke, and others. If you experience a mild stroke, you may only experience a temporary feeling of weakness in the affected area of your body. If you experience a major stroke, your prognosis may be much worse. People who experience major strokes may suffer permanent paralysis of one part of their bodies or may die.
Researchers continue to work on new treatments for stroke. According to Science Daily, researchers at the University of Georgia are currently developing a treatment for stroke patients using stem cells to repair the damaged areas of the brain. Human clinical trials may start as early as 2019.
By understanding the symptoms and causes of stroke and the importance of seeking prompt medical treatment, you may be able to prevent a stroke from happening. Making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and losing weight can help you to reduce your risk of having a stroke. If you experience the symptoms of a stroke or see signs that your loved one is experiencing a stroke, it is crucial for you to call 911 immediately. Getting early treatment can greatly improve the chances of survival and your prognosis.