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Disease at a Glance: Stroke

Stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when blood-flow into and within the brain is interrupted, either due to a blocked blood vessel (ischemic stroke) or a ruptured blood vessel (haemorrhagic stroke) or a blood clot (thrombotic stroke). When a blood clot breaks off from some other part of the body and travels to the brain, it’s called embolic stroke (or cerebral embolism).

 

When blood-flow to the brain is cut off, irrespective of the reason, the affected brain cells cannot get the oxygen they need to function properly. If blood-flow is not restored, these brain cells get damaged temporarily or permanently. Bear in mind that the brain controls a variety of functions in our body – so, if a stroke occurs and blood flow cannot reach brain cells that control a particular body function, that part of the body can no longer work as it should.

 

Common Symptoms

Face drooping (to one side)
Numbness or weakness in the arm or face 
Slurred speech
Loss of balance or coordination
Vision trouble & dizziness
Severe, unexplained headache

 

For example, a stroke in the left side of the brain may lead to a paralysis of the right side of the body. It can also affect speech and cause memory loss. Similarly, a stroke in the right side of the brain can lead to a paralysis of the left side of the body. It can also affect vision and cause memory loss. Effects of a stroke depend on the location of the obstruction and the extent of damage suffered by the brain cells. Prompt and immediate medical care is essential to minimize the risk of lasting brain damage.

 

The American Stroke Association lists three key warning signs – face drooping (to one side); arm weakness or numbness, and; slurred speech. Other symptoms may include loss of balance or coordination, vision trouble, sudden numbness or weakness in the face/leg, dizziness and severe & unexplained headache. People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, a history of heart disease, obesity, binge drinking and a family history of stroke are at high risk. Treatment depends on the cause of the stroke.

 


Key Diagnostic Tests: MRI, Brain CT Scan, Carotid Ultrasound, EKG

 

Additional Tests: Blood Glucose Level, Platelet Count, Blood Clotting Time, etc.

 

Doctor Specialty: Neurologist

 

Risk factors for stroke: Diabetes, Hypertension, High Cholesterol, Heart Disease,

 

Course of Action: Seek medical help immediately; effective therapies for stroke work best within the first 3-6 hours.



References:

1. American Stroke Association (www.powertoendstroke.org)
2. US National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov)
3. Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org)
4. National Stroke Association (www.stroke.org)
 

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