Stroke is a medical emergency. Know these warning signs of stroke and teach them to others. Every second counts:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Stroke is an event in which blood flow to the brain is restricted, causing damage and tissue death. It is life-threatening. Also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), a stroke is a life-threatening event in which part of the brain is deprived of adequate oxygen. Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability and institutionalization.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is similar to a stroke, but does not cause permanent damage. TIAs and carotid artery disease (atherosclerosis in the neck arteries) both increase the risk of a future stroke.
There are two kinds of strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, usually by a blood clot. These clots may be caused by “hardening of the arteries” in the carotid arteries , which feed the head and brain with oxygen-rich blood. The second kind of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke , which occurs when there is bleeding into or around the brain.
After a stroke begins, it is extremely important that people seek treatment as soon as possible to reestablish the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain cells before permanent tissue damage or death occurs. Medical personnel must act quickly to maintain the patient's breathing, reduce fever (if present), run tests to determine the cause of the stroke, administer appropriate medications and perform any necessary procedures while racing against the clock to re-establish blood flow to the brain.
People who survive a stroke should begin stroke rehabilitation as soon as possible to regain as many lost functions as possible. Most recovery occurs during the first few months following a stroke. However, new intensive rehabilitation techniques are offering new hope for recovery even a year or so following a debilitating stroke.