Stroke

Learn more about what causes a stroke, stroke symptoms, stroke diagnosis and stroke treatment.

Stoke occurs when there is an artery blockage to the brain.

What Causes a Stroke?

Blood is brought to the brain by blood vessels called arteries. A stroke happens when an artery to the brain is blocked or bursts, due, for example, to high blood pressure or a weak artery wall from birth. This causes blood supply to a part of the brain to be cut off, and the cells in that part of the brain die. When this happens, the functions that are controlled by that part of the brain are lost.

A stroke is considered a medical emergency, so prompt medical attention is important. Recognising the signs of a stroke and early treatment can minimise brain damage and potential complications.

Risk Factors of a Stroke

Many factors increase your stroke risk. Some risk factors for stroke are unchangeable such as age and family history.

Other factors are related to our lifestyle. These include:

Some medical conditions, if poorly controlled, can increase the risk of stroke. These include:

Related: Stroke: About Stroke

Stroke Symptoms

Depending on which part of the brain is affected, a person may have different symptoms. One or more of the following symptoms may be present:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness usually on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or a fit
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden difficulty in walking
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Sudden severe giddiness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Loss of concentration and memory

Stroke Diagnosis

If you have the signs and symptoms of stroke such as weakness or numbness of the limbs, you will undergo some tests, which may include:

  • Blood tests (e.g., to detect diabetes and high blood cholesterol)
  • Brain scan — usually a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to confirm the type of stroke (whether it is due to a blood clot or burst blood vessel) and where it has occurred.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) — to look for heart disease.
  • Ultrasound scans (e.g., scanning the blood vessels to the brain to look for abnormalities)
  • Angiogram — an X-ray test in which a small tube is inserted via a blood vessel in the groin to reach the blood vessels to the brain. A dye injected through the tube then shows the degree of blockage of blood vessels or the location of the bleeding in the brain.

Related: The ABCs of Health Screening

Stroke Treatment

  • Medication — the doctor may prescribe medication; for example, in the case of a stroke caused by a blood clot, “blood thinners” may be prescribed.
  • Surgery — a stroke caused by a blood vessel that has burst may require urgent surgery to stop the bleeding. In other cases, surgery may be performed later to reduce the risk of another stroke; for example, if there is a serious narrowing of the neck artery, an operation may be done to remove or open up the narrowed area.
  • Rehabilitation — this is a very important part of treatment for stroke. See below for more information.

Self-Care

Lead a healthy lifestyle by:

Living with Stroke: Post-Stroke Rehabilitation

The aim of rehabilitation is to allow you to regain as much independence as possible. Rehabilitation will start as soon as your doctor feels it is possible and will continue after your discharge from the hospital.

Rehabilitation usually involves a group of specialists and depends on the type of stroke. Rehabilitation includes:

  • Teaching of mobility skills (physiotherapy) — walking, moving from chair to bed, etc.
  • Swallowing and speech therapy.
  • Teaching of self-care skills (occupational therapy) like bathing, dressing and feeding independently.

Your doctor will refer you to the appropriate rehabilitation specialist (e.g., physiotherapists and speech therapists).

Rehabilitation often continues on an outpatient basis after discharge from the hospital.

Related: Stroke After-effects

Stroke Prevention

Go for regular check-ups

 Follow stroke prevention tips by going for regular check-ups

Watch Out for a Transient Ischaemic Attack, a Warning Sign of a Stroke

A transient ischaemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a mini-stroke, is a warning sign of a stroke — it has been found that one in three people who have a TIA will eventually have a stroke, with about half occurring within a year of a TIA. However, not all who have a stroke get this warning sign.

A TIA happens when the blood supply to a part of the brain is temporarily cut off. It may last from a few seconds to up to 24 hours, after which there is complete recovery. Since symptoms of a TIA are often vague and temporary, people tend to ignore them. However, early effective treatment of a TIA can prevent a stroke from occurring in the future.

The signs of TIA resemble those found early in a stroke. Should you have any of the following stroke warning signs, you should see a doctor immediately:

  • Sudden, unexplained tingling and/or numbness on one side of the body
  • Sudden weakness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg
  • Sudden severe headache with no obvious cause
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty talking
  • Stumbling and/or sudden clumsiness

Stroke is a medical emergency — the earlier the treatment, the better the recovery. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the damage. Once a part of the brain dies, it cannot be repaired, and the effects are permanent. Follow your doctor's advice on diet, physical activity and take any medication that is prescribed diligently.

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