Stroke symptoms may not be as dramatic or painful as a heart attack. But the results can be just as life-threatening. Stroke is an emergency. Get medical help immediately and know when the symptoms started.
Common symptoms include
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech.
- Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Call 1066 immediately if you or someone you know experiences any of the above warning signs. Write down the time the symptoms started. Sometimes these warning signs last for only a few minutes and then go away. Even if this happens, or if you think you are getting better, call for help.
Immediate medical care is important. New treatments work only if given within a few hours after a stroke begins. For example, a clot-busting drug must be given within three hours.
Once the doctor completes the diagnostic tests, the treatment is chosen. For all stroke patients, the aim is to prevent further brain damage. If the stroke is caused by blocked blood flow to the brain, treatment could include:
T P A (tissue plasminogen activator), a clot-busting drug that is injected within three hours of the start of a non-bleeding stroke. Drugs that thin the blood, including anticoagulants (warfarin) and antiplatelet medications (aspirin or ticlopidine); a combination of aspirin and sustained release dipyridamole. Surgery that opens the insides of narrowed neck blood vessels (carotid endarterectomy).
If bleeding causes the stroke, treatment could include:
- Drugs that maintain normal blood clotting.
- Surgery to remove blood in the brain or decrease pressure on the brain.
- Surgery to fix the broken blood vessels.
- Blocking off bleeding vessels by inserting a coil.
- Drugs that prevent or reverse brain swelling.
- Inserting a tube into a hollow part of the brain to lower pressure.
After a stroke, a person may have some disability. The disability depends on the size and location of the stroke. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body; in right-handed individuals it is important for attention and visual-spatial skills. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body; in right-handed individuals (and 50 percent of left-handed people) it controls language speaking and understanding. Language disorders are also called "aphasias."
Rehabilitation helps regain functions lost from damage due to stroke. During rehabilitation, most people will get better. However, many do not recover completely. Unlike skin cells, nerve cells that die do not recover and are not replaced by new cells. However, the human brain is adaptable. People can learn new ways of functioning, using undamaged brain cells.