Major signs of a stroke
Stroke is a major medical emergency and a leading cause of death in many countries worldwide. It occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or, more commonly, when a blockage develops.
Without treatment, cells in the brain quickly begin to die. The result can be serious disability or death. If someone is having stroke symptoms, seek emergency medical attention without delay.
Signs of a stroke may include:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the body, especially on one side; sudden vision changes in one or both eyes, or difficulty swallowing; sudden severe headache with unknown cause; sudden problems with dizziness, walking, or balance and sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding others among others symptom.
Every second counts when seeking treatment for a stroke. When deprived of oxygen, brain cells begin dying within minutes. There are clot-busting drugs that can curb brain damage, but they need to be used within three hours – up to 4.5 hours in some people – of the initial stroke symptoms. Once brain tissue has died, the body parts controlled by that area won’t work properly. This is why stroke is a top cause of long-term disability.
When someone with stroke symptoms arrives in the ER, the first step is to determine which type of stroke is occurring. There are two main types and they are not treated the same way. A CT scan can help doctors determine whether the symptoms are coming from a blocked blood vessel or a bleeding vessel. Additional tests may also be used to find the location of a blood clot or bleeding within the brain.
The most common type of stroke is known as an ischemic stroke. Nearly nine out of 10 strokes fall into this category. The culprit is a blood clot that obstructs a blood vessel inside the brain. The clot may develop on the spot or travel through the blood from elsewhere in the body.
Hemorrhagic strokes are less common but far more likely to be fatal. They occur when a weakened blood vessel in the brain bursts. The result is bleeding inside the brain that can be difficult to stop.
Another type of stroke is the transient ischemic attack. Often called a “mini-stroke,” it is more like a close call. Blood flow is temporarily impaired to part of the brain, 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. It’s critical to seek emergency medical help if you think you’ve had a TIA. There are therapies to reduce the risk of stroke.
A common cause of stroke is atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries. Plaque made of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances builds up in the arteries, leaving less space for blood to flow. A blood clot may lodge in this narrow space and cause an ischemic stroke. Atherosclerosis also makes it easier for a clot to form. Hemorrhagic strokes often result from uncontrolled high blood pressure that causes a weakened artery to burst.
Certain chronic conditions increase risks of stroke. These include: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity, among others.
Taking steps to control these conditions may reduce the risk of stroke.
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