Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes. Knowing the symptoms of a stroke is important so that you can act fast to get treatment if you or someone else might be having a stroke.
What Is A Stroke?
According to the American Stroke Association, a stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is cut off or drastically reduced. Brain cells begin to die when they are deprived of oxygen and glucose. Permanent brain damage or death is possible if a stroke is not caught early.
What Are The Different Types Of Strokes?
The type of stroke you have affects your treatment and recovery. The CDC describes the three different strokes in detail.
Most strokes (87%) are ischemic strokes. An ischemic stroke happens when blood flow through the artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain becomes blocked.
Blood clots often cause the blockages that lead to ischemic strokes.
"There are many ways in which this can happen, but one of the more common ways is there would be plaque rupture," said Atul Chugh, MD, a cardiologist at Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians in Indianapolis, said in an interview with WIBC radio. "Just like a heart attack, a stroke can be regarded as being a brain attack. And sort of the way that happens is very similar, in that if it happens in the heart, plaque breaks open. And to try and repair that plaque, a clot develops over the area of the plaque which has broken open and of course while that solved the problem of the plaque not breaking open further, it decreases any blood flow or impedes any blood flow through that region. If that were to happen in the heart that's a heart attack, and of course if that happens in the brain, that's a stroke."
"A hemorrhagic stroke is when there is active bleeding that occurs into the brain, and we see clinical deterioration or a patient deteriorating with their function very rapidly because there is increased blood development into the tissues of the brain," Dr. Chugh said. "The patient starts losing many of their functions, including their vital functions. This is what we normally refer to as having a massive stroke."
High blood pressure and aneurysms - balloon-like bulges in an artery that can stretch and burst - are examples of conditions that can cause a hemorrhagic stroke.
There are two types of hemorrhagic strokes:
- Intracerebral hemorrhage is the most common type of hemorrhagic stroke. It occurs when an artery in the brain bursts, flooding the surrounding tissue with blood.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage is a less common type of hemorrhagic stroke. It refers to bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissues that cover it.
Transient ischemic attack
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is sometimes called a "mini-stroke." It is different from the major types of stroke because blood flow to the brain is blocked for only a short time - usually no more than 5 minutes. A TIA is a warning sign of a future stroke and is a medical emergency, just like a major stroke.
Blood clots often cause TIA.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Stroke?
The common signs and symptoms of a stroke include:
- Numbness on one side of the body, especially in the face, arm or leg
- Loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Trouble speaking or understanding what others are saying
- Sudden, severe headache
- Imbalance and trouble walking
Symptoms of strokes are serious, and if you think someone is showing signs of a stroke, call 911 immediately.
"If patients suspect they may be suffering a stroke, they should report to the ER immediately,” said Franciscan Physician Network neurologist Cindy Joseph, MD. "A stroke can lead to permanent, disabling deficits and even death in severe cases. If acted on within a certain time frame, there are medications and interventions that can prevent these."
What Does The "Be Fast" Acronym Stand For?
The acronym "Be Fast" is used to remind people what the stroke symptoms are and what to do if you or someone you know is having a stroke.
- B - Balance: Does the person complain of dizziness or have sudden altered or unsteady gait?
- E - Eyes: Does the person have a sudden loss or change in vision?
- F - Face: Ask the person to smile. Check to see if one side of the face droops.
- A - Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. See if one arm drifts downward.
- S - Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Check to see if words are slurred and if the sentence is repeated correctly.
- T - Time: If a person shows any of these symptoms, time is essential. It is important to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Call 911. BE FAST.
Call 911 right away if you or someone you know experiences any of these signs or symptoms.
"It is important to act emergently on cases, like strokes," Dr. Joseph said. "Doing so can save your life. Remember, 'time is brain'."
Is It Safe To Go The Emergency Department For A Stroke During the Pandemic?
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many people are scared to go to into busy places, including hospitals, even in the time of an emergency.
Dr. Joseph stated that it is safe and necessary to go to the Emergency Department if someone is showing symptoms of a stroke or having other healthcare emergencies.
"If it is an emergency it is needed, and I believe it is safe as long as you are taking the correct precautions," she said.
Hospitals have plans in place to isolate COVID-19 coronavirus patients from other emergency patients.
"Emergency rooms are screening all patients for signs and symptoms or COVID-19 regardless of what the reason for the visit is," Dr. Joseph said. "Staff is also protecting themselves and patients by using the appropriate PPE including masks, face shields, gown and gloves."
Dr. Joseph also noted that patients with COVID-19 have a higher risk of having a stroke due to hypercoaguability.
Are You At Risk For Stroke?
Act now. Learn the risk factors for stroke. Download our free stroke information guide.
By Ariel Anderson
Social Media Specialist