It is important to have information about strokes. Each of us has probably known someone who has had a stroke, needed rehabilitation after one and even possibly died after one. I am not writing about this to scare you, but to help you understand the seriousness of this medical situation. A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary period of symptoms similar to those of a stroke. It usually lasts only a short period of time, and doesn’t usually cause permanent damage. It is often called a ‘mini-stroke’ – a TIA may be a warning. About 1 in 3 people who have had a TIA are likely to have a stroke sometime in the future. One medical study showed: TIAs were experienced prior to the ischemic stroke and in many cases occurred within the preceding seven days, 17% occurring on the day of the stroke, 9% on the previous day, and 43% at some point during the seven days prior to the stroke. Even if the TIA symptoms do not last long, it is advisable to see your doctor as soon as possible – suggest immediately after a TIA episode for an examination and view this incident as an opportunity to help prevent a stroke. Acting timely is the key component for treatment.
There are two main causes of stroke: (a) a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or leaking, or (b) the bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). Eighty per cent of strokes are ischemic, caused by the narrowing of the large or small arteries of the brain, or by clots that block blood flow to the brain.
When you have a stroke, your brain isn’t getting the blood it needs. You need treatment right away to lower your chances of brain damage, disability, or even death. There is a basic simple test helping you identify the most common stroke symptoms, to see if you or another person is experiencing a stroke – it is called: FAST. Face: Smile and see if one side of the face droops. Arms: Raise both arms. Does one arm drop down, or not able to raise? Speech: Say a short phrase and check for slurred, garbled or ‘strange’ speech. Time: If the answer to any of these is yes, seek IMMEDIATE medical help and also remember to write down the time when symptoms started.
There are other things to observe for in assessing if a stroke is occurring / has occurred: Sudden NUMBNESS or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body. Sudden CONFUSION, trouble speaking or understanding speech, sudden TROUBLE SEEING from one or both eyes, possibly double vision, blurred or ‘blackened’ vision. Sudden TROUBLE WALKING, dizziness – like the room is spinning, maybe stumbling, loss of balance or coordination. Sudden SEVERE HEADACHE with no known cause, which may be accompanied by nausea / vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness.
Most people have sudden stroke symptoms, but, others may have a gradual increase of intensity of symptoms, i.e. mild weakness, progressing to total inability to move a limb [arm/leg]. Do not ignore the first signs! Seek medical care immediately.
While the clock ticks, the brain is deprived of oxygen after blood flow is cut off by a clot or a ruptured vessel. Treatment is extremely time-sensitive, and delays can increase the risk of death or permanent brain damage. Even if you are not sure if you are having a stroke, it is a better and a wiser decision to seek immediate medical help, rather than ignoring these symptoms, ‘sitting and waiting’ to see what happens. Don’t gamble with your life–this will be a big bad decision you will regret. Time matters!!
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