Causes of Stroke
- A blocked blood vessel cuts off blood supply to the brain leading to Ischemic stroke. This is the commonest type of stroke. If the blood supply to the brain is only cut off for a short time, the symptoms like numbness, weakness of limbs and speech disturbances, clear up within 24 hours. This is called a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or a warning-stroke. The risk of another stroke is very high within days of a TIA. So, it needs to be treated similar to a full-fledged stroke.
- A bleed in or on the surface of the brain i.e. a brain Haemorrhage is seen in upto 13% of stroke cases. This is more dangerous than Ischemic stroke, with grater chances of death. Blood leaks into the brain at a very high pressure, causing considerable irreversible damage to the tissue.
What are the risk factors for Stroke?
- Age: The risk of stroke increases drastically after the age of 55
- Gender: There is a higher incidence of stroke in women, with increased risk due to use of oral contraceptives, pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, a tendency to migraine, and the postpartum period
- Family history of stroke
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Sleep Apnea
- Lack of exercise, and a sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of fish, fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet
- Diseases like sickle cell disease, atrial fibrillation, etc
Symptoms of Stroke
The best way to prevent a stroke from causing lasting damage is to identify the early signs, often termed as red flags. Here are the commonest symptoms that appear in a stroke:
- Sudden onset of complaints, usually on waking
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weakness of limbs
- Numbness of limbs
- Drooping of face on one side
- Speech disturbances
- Vision changes
What causes these symptoms?
Ischemic strokes starve the brain of nutrients, thereby, destroying the brain tissue. Haemorrhages cause local injury, and destroy connecting pathways in the brain. Each half of the brain controls the opposite half of the body. So, if the right side of the brain is affected, then symptoms are seen on the left side of the body, and vice versa.
The brain sends signals to the muscles via the nerves, therefore, if the neurons are damaged, these signals are disrupted, causing muscle weakness, leading to drooping of face, and weakness of limbs. Damage to parts of the brain that receive signals from the eyes or control muscles of the eye, leads to vision disturbances. Similarly, damage to the parts of the brain that control understanding and speech, can cause confusion and speech disturbances.
How to identify a Stroke?
Early diagnosis and treatment of stroke can save lives, and reduce disability.
One of the ways to identify a stroke is F.A.S.T. It stands for:
- Face: check for abnormality in the symmetry of face, like drooping of the cheeks or eyelids, or an unequal smile.
- Arms: ask for weakness or numbness in the arms; raise both arms in front of the patient and look for downward drift in either arm .
- Speech: check for speech disturbances like slurring. Ask the patient to repeat a simple sentence. If it sounds slurred, slow, or is difficult to understand, call for help.
- Time: Time is of essence, when dealing with a stroke. Timely help will improve chances of survival and recovery. If the patient exhibits any of the above symptoms, call for help immediately.
Look for these five Sudden symptoms, to remember the warning signs of stroke:
- Sudden headache, without any cause
- Sudden dizziness, difficulty in walking, and loss of balance
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the arm, leg or face
- Sudden disturbance in speech and understanding, with confusion
- Sudden disturbance in vision
80% of stroke cases can be prevented by the right lifestyle and timely intervention. If you or anyone in your family exhibits any of these signs, call for help immediately.
The patient receives emergency care as well as, surgical intervention, if needed. This is followed by extensive physical therapy and neuro-rehabilitation to reduce disability. Professional home nursing care can help rapid recovery in patients needing stroke rehabilitation.