Stroke can be a serious and frightening medical emergency that has a huge impact on both the patients and their loved ones. What are the symptoms of a stroke? How can you prevent one?
Find out more about the causes and treatments of stroke from the Q&As below.
Q1: What is a stroke and what causes a stroke?
The formal medical term for stroke is "cerebrovascular accident". There are two main types of stoke: ischemic and haemorrhage. One of the vessels in the brain is suddenly "blocked" (majority) or has suddenly "bursted" (minority), causing inadequate blood supply to the area of the brain that the vessels normally supply. That area of the brain cannot function properly, leading to symptoms.
Q2: What is the relation of stroke with heart disease?
Vessels in the brain are similar to those of the heart, so risk factors leading to heart disease are also those for stroke. Moreover, irregular heart rhythm would lead to blood clot forming within the heart, which might travel from the heart to the brain, block the brain vessels and cause a stroke.
Q3: How do I know if I am at risk for a stroke?
It depends if you have any of the risk factors in relation to vascular diseases, e.g. hypertension, diabetes, raised lipid, smoking, overweight, with sleep apnea, under stress. As mentioned, irregular heart rhythm is also another major risk factor.
Q4: How to prevent a stroke?
Tight control of the above risk factors if known. Regular body check to facilitate early detection of the risk factors, because hypertension, diabetes and raised lipid levels often do not have any symptoms.
Q5: How can you tell if someone is having a stroke? Are there any signs or symptoms?
Stroke symptoms are usually very sudden weakness and/or numbness affecting one side (either left or right) of the body. It may be accompanied by facial asymmetry, speech disturbance (slurring or difficult to express with correct words), and/or one-sided visual field loss.
From the symptoms, we cannot tell whether it is ischemic or haemorrhage, although haemorrhage would tend to cause more headache. Medical consultation is always recommended.
Q6: What should I do if someone is having a stroke nearby?
You should immediately call 999 or bring him/her to the nearby hospital. For ischaemic stroke, the acute treatment is administration of intravenous "thrombolytics" which will dissolve the blood clot, or consideration of urgent mechanical method to take out the clot from the vessel. This has to be done within a narrow time window of several hours.
For haemorrhage, not much can be done except for severe bleeding which might require surgical drainage. However, urgent medical attention is still needed to minimise the extent of the bleeding.
Q7: What are the treatments for stroke once the acute stage is passed?
Once the acute stage is passed, patients should have risk factors tightly controlled and go through long process of rehabilitation. It is essential to re-train the surviving brain cells to take up the brain functions of the damaged area, which might take a long time to do so and might not lead to a complete recovery.
Q8: Will stroke patients relapse after recovery?
Yes, stroke would increase risk of recurrence, especially in the first year.
Q9: Is exercise beneficial or risky for stroke patients?
When risk factors of stroke are under control, exercise is beneficial to the patients but should be gentle and gradually incremented, preferably supervised by therapist.
Q10: How can a stroke affect our daily lives? / What are the consequences of a stroke?
Over half of stroke survivors have disability and about 1/3 have difficulty in self-care. More elderly survivors and survivors with larger areas of the brain affected by stroke have worse outcome.
Source: Matilda International Hospital