By: Dr. Bhuvaneshwari Rajendran
Strokes are brain attacks. They occur when the blood supply to the brain becomes blocked or when there is a bleed inside the brain. 85% of the strokes are due to blocked blood vessels. A stroke is a medical emergency that needs immediate medical attention. Because during a stroke, the brain does not receive enough oxygen or nutrients, causing brain cells to die, Strokes need to be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible to minimize brain damage. Treatment depends on the type of stroke.
Ischemic (block) and hemorrhagic (Bleed) strokes have different causes; both require different forms of treatment
Ischemic strokes are caused by arteries being blocked or narrowed, treatment for this starts with drugs that break down clots and prevent others from forming. TPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator) is also very effective at dissolving clots but needs to be injected within 4.5 hours of stroke symptoms starting.
There are other procedures that can be carried out to decrease the risk of strokes or TIAs. A carotid endarterectomy involves a surgeon opening the carotid artery and removing any plaque that might be blocking it.
Hemorrhagic stroke are caused by blood leaking into the brain, so treatment focuses on controlling the bleeding and reducing the pressure on the brain. Treatment can begin with drugs given to reduce the pressure in the brain, control overall blood pressure, prevent seizures and prevent sudden constrictions of blood vessels. If an individual is taking blood-thinning medication like aspirin, we need to stop. Surgery can be used to repair any problems with blood vessels if identified in the right patients.
After a stroke, successful recovery will often involve specific therapies and support, such as: Speech therapy, Physical therapy, Occupational Therapy and Support from Friends and Family. With the right assistance and the support of loved ones, rehabilitation to a normal quality of life is possible, depending on the severity of the stroke.
The best way to prevent a stroke can be achieved through lifestyle changes, including – eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, no smoking, avoiding alcohol or drinking moderately, keeping blood pressure under control, managing diabetes, treating obstructive sleep apnea which can be an independent cause for strokes. Doctor can also help to reduce the risk of future ischemic strokes through prescribing blood thinner medication
Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is different from the types above because the flow of blood to the brain is only briefly interrupted. TIAs are similar to ischemic strokes in that they are often caused by blood clots or other clots. They should be regarded as medical emergencies, even if the blockage of the artery and its symptoms are temporary. They serve as warning signs for future strokes and indicate that there is a partially blocked artery or clot source in the heart.
Studies show evidence that over a third of people who experience a TIA have a major stroke within a year if they have not received any treatment. Between 10 and 15 percent of people will have a major stroke within 3 months of a TIA. So please seek medical help as soon as possible to prevent major strokes.
Signs of strokes are – If there is a loss of Balance, there is a blurring of vision or loss of vision, if the person tries to smile, does one side of the face droop, if the person tries to raise both his arms, does one arm drift downward?, and if the person tries to repeat a simple phrase, is their speech slurred or strange?
Stroke is treatable, recognise symptoms early and seek medical help as soon as possible. The faster a person with suspected stroke receives medical attention, the better their prognosis will be, and the less likely they will be to experience permanent damage or death. (The writer is a Senior Consultant Neurologist and Clinical Neurophysiologist, Kauvery Hospital, Chennai)