A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, causing brain cells to die, due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients needed to function. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and the United Kingdom and causes 10% of deaths worldwide. It's important to know how to recognize the signs of a stroke, especially if someone you know is at risk of having a stroke. Treatments are available to minimize the damage caused by a stroke, but people who have had a stroke must be taken to the hospital within one hour of symptoms of a stroke.
Part 1 of 2: Recognizing the Symptoms of a Stroke
Step 1. Understand the difference between a stroke and a light stroke
There are two main types of stroke: ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot in the brain, and hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and causes bleeding in the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are less common than ischemic strokes, because only 20 percent of strokes that occur are hemorrhagic strokes. Both types of stroke are serious and can be life-threatening if the sufferer is not treated as soon as possible.
Minor strokes, also called transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), occur when the brain receives less blood than usual. These attacks can last from a few minutes to a day. Many people who have a minor stroke don't even realize they are having a stroke, but a minor stroke can be a warning sign of a full-blown stroke. If a person has had a minor stroke, he or she should seek immediate medical attention
Step 2. Look for two or more stroke symptoms
Most stroke survivors will exhibit two or more of the most common stroke symptoms, including:
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body.
- Sudden difficulty seeing with one or both eyes.
- Difficulty in walking, as well as dizziness and loss of balance.
- Sudden confusion and difficulty speaking or understanding someone speaking to them.
- Severe headache for no apparent reason.
Step 3. Take the F. A. S. T. test
It can be difficult for a stroke survivor to describe or explain the symptoms of a stroke. To confirm that the person has had a stroke, you can run a short test, called the F. A. S. T. test:
- Face - Ask the person to smile. Check to see if one side of his face is drooping or looking numb. His smile can appear unbalanced or taller on one side of his face.
- Arm - Ask him to raise his arm. If he can't lift his arm, or if one arm droops down, he may have suffered a stroke.
- Speak - Ask the person simple questions, such as their name or age. Pay attention if he sounds slurred when he responds to you, or if you have trouble putting words together.
- Timing - If he or she exhibits any of the above symptoms, it's time to call 119. You also need to pay attention to the timing to determine when the person's symptoms first appeared, as medical staff will use this information to better treat him or her.
Part 2 of 2: Getting Medical Attention for Stroke Victims
Step 1. Call 119 for immediate medical assistance
After confirming that the person is having a stroke, you should take immediate action and call 119. Then tell the operator that he or she is having a stroke and needs immediate medical attention. A stroke is considered a medical emergency, because the longer blood flow to the brain is cut off, the greater the damage to the brain.
Step 2. Let the doctor do the tests and examinations
After taking the stroke victim to the hospital, the doctor will ask the person questions, such as what happened and when he first experienced symptoms. These questions will help the doctor determine whether he or she can think clearly and how severe the stroke is. The doctor will also test his reflexes and prepare a number of tests, including:
- Imaging tests: These will produce clear images of the person's brain, including CT scans and MRIs. These tests will help doctors determine whether the stroke was caused by a blockage or bleeding in the brain.
- Electrical tests: the patient may be asked to undergo an EEG (electroencephalogram) test to record electrical impulses and brain sensory processing, as well as an ECG (electrocardiogram) test, which measures the electrical activity of the heart.
- Blood flow test: This test will show any changes that may occur in the blood flow to the brain.
Step 3. Discuss with your doctor about a number of treatment options
Some stroke conditions can be treated with a drug called tPA, which works by dissolving blood clots that are blocking blood flow to the brain. However, treatment can be performed if it is still within three hours, and this treatment has specific guidelines for its application. It is important that the person is brought to the hospital within 60 minutes of the stroke in order to be evaluated and receive this treatment.
- A recent study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS) found that some stroke patients who received tPA treatment within 3 hours of the onset of stroke symptoms appeared to have a 30 percent greater chance of recovering with little or no damage after 3 months..
- If she doesn't receive tPA medication, her doctor may prescribe an anti-platelet or blood thinner for a TIA, or minor stroke.
- If she suffers from a hemorrhagic stroke, her doctor may prescribe medication to lower her blood pressure. The doctor may also stop the patient from taking anti-platelet or blood thinners.
- In some cases, surgery is also the treatment of choice for stroke.
- Recognizing the Signs of Miscarriage
- Prevent Stroke
- Reporting an Emergency
- Calling Emergency Services