Stroke

The medical term for a stroke is cerebrovascular accident or CVA.

A stroke can occur when blood flow to any area of the brain is cut off. This is dangerous as the blood contains oxygen in the red blood cells which after entering the lungs is transported by oxyhaemoglobin. When a stroke occurs, little to no oxygen reaches areas of the brain which leads to the death of brain cells. Usually, when brain cells die, abilities controlled by that area e.g. speech – cerebral cortex or muscle contraction – cerebellum, can be severely affected.

The main causes of strokes:

  1. Ischemic strokes
  • Blood vessels carrying blood to the brain are blocked by a blood clot or narrowed, resulting in ischemia – severely reduced blood flow.
  • Accounts for 85% of strokes

2. Hemorrhagic strokes

  • A brain aneurysm – bursting of a blood vessel or a brain haemorrhage – blood vessel leak.
  • The leaked blood puts pressure on brain cells causing them to die or be damaged.

3. Transient ischemic attacks (TIA)

  • Blood flow to the brain ceases for a short period of time, often referred to as a mini stroke.
  • Can be caused by blood clots.

 

F.A.S.T is a simple method to remember the signs of a stroke.

F – Face Drooping, A – Arm Weakness, S – Speech Difficulty, T – Time to call the emergency services.

While this is a simple method to learning the signs of a stroke, there are a variety of symptoms associated with having a stroke:

Muscular: difficulty walking, paralysis with weak muscles, problems with coordination, stiff muscles, overactive reflexes, or paralysis of one side of the body
Whole body: balance disorder, fatigue, lightheadedness, or vertigo
Visual: blurred vision, double vision, sudden visual loss, or temporary loss of vision in one eye
Speech: difficulty speaking, slurred speech, or speech loss
Sensory: pins and needles or reduced sensation of touch
Facial: muscle weakness or numbness
Limbs: numbness or weakness
Also common: difficulty swallowing, headache, inability to understand, mental confusion, numbness, or rapid involuntary eye movement
For strokes, time is essential, the faster these symptoms are recognised and the faster a person is taken to a hospital or seen by a doctor, the more brain tissue that can be saved and the less severe and long lasting the effects of the stroke.
As strokes are caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain, aspirin, a blood thinner, is usually given to a patient however if they have a hemorrhagic stroke, this can prove to be fatal, which is why it is important to not self medicate. If it is a hemorrhagic stroke then treatment can begin with drugs being given to reduce the pressure in the brain, overall blood pressure. Surgery can also be undertaken.
Preventing a stroke can be as easy as:
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Not smoking
  • Avoiding alcohol or moderating consumption

However sometimes, strokes can still occur.

 

References:

http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/what-stroke

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/7624.php?page=3

http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Stroke-Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms_UCM_308528_SubHomePage.jsp

 

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