Stroke Warning: Signs and Symptoms

by Garreth Myers

A stroke is a very serious health issue and requires emergency medical assistance. When a person suffers from a stroke, the brain stops receiving blood or receives very little blood. Oxygen or food supply to the brain is cut or drastically reduced resulting in brain damage and sometime even death. Fortunately, timely diagnosis and treatment can thwart brain damage and save lives. Moreover, this serious medical problem can also be prevented. In order to treat and prevent a stroke, it is important to keep a watch for the signs and symptoms.

Headaches, difficulty in walking, difficulty in speaking, difficulty in understanding, vision problems, numbness or paralysis in the face, numbness or paralysis on one side of the body, difficulty swallowing, loss of balance, falling suddenly, confusion and unconsciousness are all signs that a person may be suffering from a stroke.

Severe headaches, especially a sharp pain in the head like a shooting pain which is accompanied by dizziness, nausea and vomiting are often the only warning that a person is having a stroke. If the person is unable to walk or is unable to walk straight for no apparent reason, immediate medical aid is necessary. Lack of coordination in body movements, falling all of a sudden and losing balance accompanied by dizziness may be signs of a stroke. Moreover, if the person has difficulty with speech, experiences slurring of words and has aphasia which is problem using the right words to talk, it may be an indication that he is having a stroke. Lack of comprehension, difficulty in understanding what others are saying and getting muddled in the head are other symptoms. Vision getting momentarily impaired, which is, blurring of vision, double vision or lack of vision are still other signs of this condition. Serious stroke symptoms include experiencing paralysis or numbness in the face or arms and legs. In the face, when the person smiles, only a part of the lips appear to smile, the other half of the lips droops. If the limbs are numb and their movements are uncoordinated, then the person may be suffering from a stroke. Strokes can also cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing.

Some signs may manifest themselves from time to time and may frequent occur before the onset of a real stroke. There are also attacks called the Transient Ischaemic Attacks or TIAs which are caused due to a temporary stoppage of blood flow to the brain. These are temporary and do not cause any serious harm to the brain. However, these must not be ignored as they are precursors to a real stroke. People who have suffered from transient ischaemic attacks are more prone to a stroke or heart attack. The symptoms of a TIA are similar to stroke symptoms.

A FAST test is used to determine if one is having a stroke. As the name suggests, the test is a quick one to check if a person may be suffering from a stroke and if indeed the signs of a stroke exist, then action should be equally quick to get it treated. In the word FAST, F stands for facial weakness – Is the person able to smile? Are his eyes droopy? Is his mouth crooked? A stands for Arm weakness – Is the person able to raise both arms; if he raises both arms and one hand drops or if he is unable to raise his arms, these are signs of a stroke. S for speech difficulty – not being able to speak clearly and difficulty understanding and lastly T stands for Timely assistance if the aforementioned signs exist.

Every person suffering from a stroke does not experience the same warning signs and symptoms. These signs may either occur together or alone. Sometimes, only a few symptoms may be present. However, under no circumstances should the person ignore the symptoms or wait till the symptoms subside. As soon as he experiences one or more symptoms he must get medical attention immediately. The severity of the stroke depends on which part of the brain is damaged and for how long was blood supply to this part of the brain cut off. Identifying the symptoms early can go a long way in preventing major damage. This is because the longer these signs remain untreated, the more severe the brain damage. The person along with the stroke sufferer may sometimes have to give mouth to mouth resuscitation to help the patient breathe in case the person has problems in breathing. He may at times have to stop the person from drinking or eating to avoid choking. Similarly, if the patient starts vomiting, he may have to tilt his head to also stop choking.

Within an hour of warning signs and symptoms, the person must get emergency medical help. Timely assistance can help prevent further complications such as paralysis, memory loss, behavioral problems, and speech difficulty.

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