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Symptoms and treatment of stroke

It's a lovely Sunday morning. You and your husband are reading the newspaper while enjoying a cup of coffee. Suddenly, he complains of a severe headache and dizziness. He's having difficulty speaking and is experiencing vision problems. Frightened, you call 911. Later, you learn that he had suffered a stroke. About 16,000 Canadians die as a result of stroke each year. Your ability to recognize the signs of stroke might have saved his life.

A stroke occurs when a person suddenly experiences a loss of brain function. Strokes happen when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or when the brain's blood vessels rupture. The result is the death of the brain cells in the affected area.

What are the signs someone is having a stroke?

The following symptoms, even if they only occur temporarily, might indicate someone is experiencing a stroke:

  • A severe headache that occurs seemingly out of nowhere. It might be a headache unlike any other headache the person has experienced before.

  • Dizziness that might cause the person to have trouble finding their balance.
  • Vision problems that might only last for a short period of time.
  • Weakness, which might include leg, arm or face numbness.
  • Trouble speaking, confusion or difficulty understanding.

Some factors that can lead to stroke:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Stress
  • Physical inactivity
  • High cholesterol
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Being overweight or obese

What are the effects of a stroke?

Depending on the area of the brain that was injured during the stroke, a person may see a change in their ability to speak, see, remember, read, write or move.

Where can you go to get a stroke diagnosis?

If you think you or someone else might be experiencing a stroke, call 911 immediately. It's imperative that the person who's suffering from the stroke gets to an emergency healthcare facility as soon as possible.

Treatment for Stroke

Treatment for strokes has improved greatly in the last few years. It's important to note that in order for treatments to be effective, they must be started within a few hours of the onset of symptoms. The three main stroke emergency treatments are:

  • TPA (tissue plasminogen activator). This drug can break up blood clots and therefore stop a stroke.
  • Surgery. Surgery can repair damage following the stroke. For example, broken blood vessels can be repaired. Surgery can also be used as a preventative measure.
  • Non-surgical procedures. Catheter-based procedures are available at some hospitals and can be used to treat aneurysms. They can also be used to remove plaque buildup from arteries.

Recovering from Stoke

Healthcare professionals are an excellent source of information when it comes to stroke rehabilitation. A close friend or family member should be present during consultations and might want to take notes. Ask for brochures and contact information, in case the recovering patient has any further questions.

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