Stroke: Symptoms, Treatment, Risks, Prevention, How to React?

Stroke: Definition, Signs, Symptoms, Causes, Risks, Treatment, Prevention, Detection

As is the case every year, October 29 is World Stroke Day. It is important to recognize a stroke when it occurs and to react as quickly as possible.

It is estimated that at least one stroke occurs every four minutes, often with serious consequences. As soon as a strike is triggered, it is a race against the clock, as it's imperative to intervene as quickly as possible.

Symptoms: How to Recognize a Stroke

Strokes are linked to the appearance of a failure in the circulation of the blood in one or more parts of the brain. More specifically, it occurs following the obstruction or rupture of a blood vessel. Because of this, the brain will not be properly irrigated and the nerve cells will not receive vital oxygen or nutrients.

In the short term, this failure can result in a wide variety of symptoms. It is not necessary for all of them to be present at once. These symptoms can include:

- loss of motor skills in one arm, one leg, half of the face, or even half of the whole body, leading to paralysis and loss of balance

- loss of sensation resembling numbness in the limbs or face

- some people suddenly have difficulties expressing themselves, finding words, or speaking

- others experience symptoms related to their eyesight: sudden vision loss, blurred vision in one eye, dazzling, colour blindness

- that attack can manifest itself in the form of headaches of an exceptional intensity that are accompanied by vomiting

All these symptoms can be brief and disappear on their own, but they must not be ignored. If they are experienced, medical professionals should intervene immediately. This is because strokes can be transient and are followed later by a more severe attack.

Treatment: What to do in Case of a Stroke

The first objective of the medical intervention is to restore blood circulation in case of obstruction, or to reduce the effusion of blood in case of a haemorrhage. Depending on the situation, several treatments are possible. In case of obstruction, it's a blood enzyme that helps to dissolve the clot (called a tissue plasminogen activator) that is administered. It helps to quickly eliminate the obstruction.

In the hours that follow, other treatments - anti-coagulant or anti-platelet in particular - can be given to the patient. If bleeding occurs, an operation may be necessary to drain the blood. During this time doctors will also begin to investigate the cause of the stroke, and try to identify contributing factors. This helps to reduce the risk of recurrence.

In addition to medications, rehabilitation is an integral treatment option to help restore functions that may have been damaged or lost as a result of a stroke. Unfortunately, after a stroke, many patients continue to suffer from sequelae that can be motor, sensory, or cognitive. These can handicap sufferers in more serious cases.

Risk Factors: How to Prevent a Stroke

As the disease becomes better understood, doctors have been able to identify factors that increase the risk of having a stroke. The main one is high blood pressure (HBP) which weakens the lining of the blood vessels. HBP increases the risk of having a stroke ninefold in those over the age of 45.

Another risk factor is smoking, which contributes to atherosclerosis, increase blood pressure, and can reduce the quality of oxygen delivered by the blood. Regular and heavy consumption of alcohol can also increase the risk. Other contributing factors include obesity, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and chronic stress.

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People with diabetes, migraines, or a close relative who has had a stroke also have a higher risk of stroke. Aging is an aggravating factor, but strokes do not only affect people over the age of 65. Younger people can also have strokes.

As a preventive measure, it is therefore advised to monitor these factors and to consult a doctor regularly. This is especially true if you are considered to be at risk. Any suspicious sign should be taken seriously, and consulted by a doctor immediately.

Stacey Williams
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