Patient education is an important aspect of your care.
Symptoms of a stroke vary depending on the type of stroke, as well as the location and degree of brain damage. If a stroke is caused by a large blood clot or bleeding, symptoms occur within seconds. When an artery is already narrowed or blocked, stroke symptoms usually develop gradually within minutes to hours or, rarely, days. However, symptoms of a small stroke may be confused with the effects of aging or with conditions that cause similar symptoms.
The effects of a stroke range from mild to severe, may be temporary or permanent, and can affect vision, speech, behavior, the ability to think and the ability to move parts of the body.
Sometimes a stroke can cause a coma or death. Just as with a heart attack, someone having a stroke needs immediate emergency care — the sooner medical treatment begins, the better. If you see someone exhibiting symptoms of a stroke, call 911 immediately!
Symptoms of a stroke include sudden onset of:
- Numbness, weakness or inability to move (paralysis of) the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes, such as dimness, blurring, double vision or loss of vision
- Confusion or trouble speaking
- Trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
- Severe headache with no known cause
One or more mini-strokes (transient ischemic attacks or TIAs) may occur before a person has a full-blown stroke. Symptoms for both are similar, however, unlike stroke symptoms, TIA symptoms disappear within 10 to 20 minutes up to one hour. A TIA is a warning signal that a stroke may soon occur, and the condition needs to be treated as an emergency.
There are two major types of strokes:
- Ischemic stroke is caused by a blocked or narrowed artery in the brain. A less common cause occurs when blood pressure becomes too low and reduces blood flow to the brain.
- Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by sudden bleeding from a blood vessel inside the brain or in the spaces around the brain. The most common cause is high blood pressure.
The American Stroke Association has identified several factors that increase your risk of stroke. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances for a stroke. Some of these factors cannot be modified and some can be modified through lifestyle changes. Your health care provider can help you assess your risk for stroke and recommend ways to control your risk factors and reduce your chances of having a stroke.
Strokes are diagnosed based on the patient’s medical history and a physical exam. We offer a variety of diagnostic tests. If stroke is suspected, the doctor will order a stat computed tomography (CT) scan to determine whether the stroke was caused by a clot or from bleeding inside the brain. Additional tests may be done depending on the scan results and how soon you arrive in the emergency room.
People who have symptoms of a stroke need to seek emergency medical care by calling 911. Prompt medical attention may prevent life-threatening complications and more widespread brain damage — and is critical for the best recovery. If emergency treatment is sought within the first one to two hours after symptoms begin, some people with a stroke caused by a blood clot may be able to receive a medication to dissolve the clot called Alteplase.
Treatment may include medication and/or neurointerventional radiology and is based on the type of stroke and the seriousness of the symptoms. The goals of treatment are to prevent life-threatening complications that may occur soon after stroke symptoms develop, prevent future strokes, reduce disability and help prevent long-term complications.