Also known as cerebrovascular accident or CVA, a stroke is a serious medical condition whereby the brain loses some or all of its functions as a direct result of a disturbance in the blood supply to its cells and tissues which means reduced deliver of oxygen and nutrients and cellular demise. Stroke causing disturbances of the blood supply to the brain can be set off by various conditions such asischemia which is a reduction of the blood flow due to locally forming blood clots (thrombosis) or remotely forming and migrating clots (embolism). A stroke can also be caused by a rupture of blood vessels in the brain which results in a hemorrhage.
In its most severe form, a stroke can very quickly result in permanent and irreversible paralysis and death of its victim.
Symptoms of a Stroke
Although individuals who have had TIA (transient ischemic attack) are classified as being at a higher risk for suffering a stroke, the later usually comes on with no forewarning. But whether it is associated with TIA or not, it is crucially important to recognize the acute symptoms of a stroke at its earliest onset. The most common among them are:
- (a) Dizziness, loss of balance and/or the loss of coordination, particularly when walking.
- (b) The sudden inability to speak clearly and/or coherently and the loss of common words.
- (c) Significant weakness, numbness and/or paralysis on one side of the body but not the other.
- (d) Sudden disturbances in the eyes and the onset of blurriness which is accompanies by black spots and double vision.
- (e) A severe headache that differs from any other which may be experienced along with stiffness of the neck, overall facial pain and particularly between the eyes, uncontrolled vomiting as well as confusion and cognitive disorientation.
- (f) Slackness and drooping of facial muscles and skin, usually on one side.
Risk of a Stroke
The possible factors that can lead up to a stroke are many but those which are most suspected are: individuals with family history of stroke, heart attack or TIA; those who are over the age of 55; those with high blood pressure; those with high cholesterol levels; tobacco smokers; diabetic patients; those afflicted with obesity and/or cardiovascular disease; those using hormone therapy including birth control pills; those who indulgence in alcohol and drugs
Statistics show that men and women are equally prone to get a stroke but women die of it more frequently than do men. And of all the races, African Americans are most likely to be affected by strokes.
Treating a Stroke
Early detection and urgent treatment are keys to keeping the damage caused by a stroke to its minimum as well as curtailing its possible complications.
When the cause of the stroke is due to diminished supply of blood (ischemic stroke), the first line of treatment attempts to replenish the blood and to restore it to its normal flow. Aspirin or other blood thinning drugs are prescribed to increase the flow of flood. Likewise, clot-busting drugs which are also known as tissue plasminogen activators (TPAs) may be prescribed to quickly dissolve clots which are causing the blockage. Surgery (carotid endarterectomy or angioplasty and stents) to open or widen arteries that are seriously narrowed by plaque may also be performed.
In the event that a stroke was caused by a hemorrhage, one of three surgeries is usually performed: (a) aneurysm clipping, (b) aneurysm embolization or coiling, and (c) surgical AVM removal.