A stroke is a condition wherein the cells of the brain die because of decreased or absent blood flow. There are two common types of stroke namely ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. Ischemic stroke occurs when there is an occlusion of a blood vessel that supplies the blood to the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke, on the other hand, occurs when one of the blood vessels ruptures that causes bleeding. A stroke is a medical emergency which can lead to debilitating conditions or even death. Recognizing that a stroke may have occurred, the rapid activation of emergency response systems and early transport to the right facility can provide a stroke patient sufficient acute management.
Overview of the Brain
The brain is one of the most important part of the central nervous system that is involved in almost all activities of a person, may it be voluntary or involuntary. It has a control for cognitive thought process and is involved in various bodily functions such as muscle activity, speech, sight, hearing, breathing and digestion. Grossly, the brain has four major parts: the brainstem, diencephalon, cerebellum and cerebral hemispheres.
The brain stem is mostly responsible with the involuntary processes of the body that may include breathing, digestion, blood pressure and heart rate. The diencephalon is also involved in autonomic processes of the body and a part of it plays a relay system of the brain stem and the hemispheres while the cerebellum is mostly responsible for the body’s balance. The cerebral hemispheres (left and right) are divided into four areas namely frontal lobe, temporal, parietal and occipital. The frontal lobe is involved in higher cognitive functions such as speech, memory, planning and intelligence. The parietal lobe is responsible for sensory and perception such as touch, pain and pressure. The temporal lobe is responsible for hearing, smell and memory. The occipital lobe is responsible in processing visual information.
These processes are extremely necessary in performing the optimal functioning of a person and a disruption of the anatomy or even of the arterial blood flow may result to detrimental effects. Stroke occurs when there is a disruption or decreased blood flow to the brain causing ischemia and eventually cell death. The symptoms may vary depending on the affected part or parts that were deprived of oxygen and blood flow. Stroke symptoms may include but not limited to: sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially only one side of the body), sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding, trouble seeing in eyes, trouble walking, balance or loss of coordination and sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Despite the complexity of the condition, there are classic signs and symptoms and warning signs that were identified to help us recognize and be oriented about the condition and what to do about it. The National Stroke Association suggests that once we recognize the warning signs, we have to act FAST to help the person affected to overcome or at least salvage the functionality that was retained after the condition.
Stroke Warning Signs
One of the common symptoms of stroke is unilateral facial drooping. Is the person able to smile? Do you notice asymmetry when a person raises his eyebrows? Do the muscles of his face contract symmetrically when you ask the person to show his teeth?
Another classic symptom of stroke is numbness or weakness of the upper or lower extremity. It may or may not be unilateral. A person who is affected by stroke may not be able to raise one or two affected extremity for at least 5-10 seconds.
Is the person able to speak? Is the speech slurred? Slurring of Speech is one of the classical symptoms of stroke. Speech problems may vary from inability to speak, slurring or inability to use or understand language depending upon the part of the brain that was affected.
If you observe any of the above signs, call your respective emergency medical responders right away. Activate any emergency alert systems and note the exact time the warning signs were observed as it may be a data as to what particular management is necessary for the stroke patient.
Early recognition and transport is necessary in order to determine the management of stroke depending upon its type. Studies show that the patients who were transported and treated within 3 to 4.5 hours have better outcomes. In certain emergency cases such as a stroke, learning how to administer a CPR can help save the life of a person who is on a critical condition. For ischemic stroke patients who are admitted to the emergency department within three hours from the onset of the symptoms, recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (RTPA) may be given as it restores the blood flow to the brain. Other management may also be applicable to hemorrhagic stroke patients that include, but not limited to anticonvulsants, antihypertensive and osmotic diuretics.
Recovery period for stroke
The period of recovery for a stroke will depend upon the extent of the injury to the brain. The more serious the brain damage is, the more extensive the rehabilitation it needs for better recovery. A stroke patient is likely to experience other problems like depression and anxiety disorder brought about by their condition. A comprehensive medical treatment including psychological and emotional support can make a difference in the recovery period for a stroke patient. The support system of the patient is important which include the medical team and family members.