Learn to recognise stroke symptoms

Learn to recognise stroke symptoms

People should be able to recognise the mnemonic FAST symptoms when  it comes to stroke: F – Face (crooked face); A – Arm (weak arm); S – Speech (slurred speech); T – Time (patient should be treated within 3 hours of attack). A person who has suffered a stroke can continue to lead a normal life with proper care and lifestyle modifications.
 
What is a stroke?
A stroke is the sudden death of a portion of the brain cells due to lack of oxygen. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is impaired, resulting in abnormal brain function. Brain blood flow can be impaired by blockage or rupture of an artery to the brain.

What causes a stroke?
Blockage of an artery of the brain by a clot (thrombosis), leading to deprivation of blood and oxygen, can cause a stroke. Typically, a clot will form in a blood vessel that has been previously narrowed due to atherosclerosis (hardening of the artery).
When a blood clot or a piece of atherosclerotic plaque (cholesterol and calcium deposits on the wall of the artery) lodges in an artery of the brain, it blocks the flow of oxygen-rich blood.

A cerebral haemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue. This too can be a cause of a stroke. All the above causes of stroke lead to deprivation of oxygen to the brain tissue and its resultant death. Risk factors for stroke are arterial hypertension, smoking, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipedaemia, thrombocythaemia, high alcohol intake, positive family history, oral contraceptives, and trauma.
 
What are the symptoms of a stroke?
The most common symptom is weakness or paralysis of one side of the body or the other. There may be partial or complete loss of voluntary movement of and/or sensation in a leg and/or arm. A stroke can result in speech problems and weaken muscles of the face, which can cause drooling. Numbness or tingling is very common. A stroke can cause difficulty in breathing.

How is a stroke diagnosed?
A stroke is a medical emergency. Anyone suspected of having a stroke should be taken to a medical facility immediately for evaluation and treatment. Other causes that can mimic a stroke include brain tumours, subdural hematomas (collection of blood between the brain and the skull), or brain abscess (a collection of pus in the brain caused by bacteria or a fungus). Viral encephalitis can cause symptoms similar to those of a stroke as can an overdose of certain medications. A battery of tests is generally carried out in the assessment of a stroke.
 
Did you know?
* Stroke is the third most common cause of death, after cancer and ischemic heart disease.
* Its incidence is accelerating in developing countries due to unhealthy lifestyles.
* 2/3 of stroke victims are above 60 years.
* Hypertension accounts for 30-50 per cent of stroke risk.

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