What Happens When You Are Having a Stroke
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in South Africa. It is very important to educate yourself and your loved ones about the different types of strokes, as well as the symptoms to look out for.
What is a stroke
A stroke is sometimes called a ‘brain attack’. It happens when the blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted. Blood in the arteries carry oxygen and nutrients to your brain cells. When one of these arteries gets blocked or bursts, the blood flow cannot reach parts of the brain. This causes the brain cells in this part of the brain to get damaged, and the person develops the symptoms of a stroke.
Types of strokes
Different types of strokes will affect the brain differently:
Ischaemic strokes caused by blood clots
A small blood clot form in a blood vessel and then blocks an artery in the brain. This blood clot may also develop in another part of your body, and travel in the blood vessels to the brain. If the clot gets stuck it will also block the blood vessel.
Haemorrhage strokes caused by bleeding
When a blood vessel in the brain bursts, it bleeds into the brain and damages it. Only two in 10 strokes are caused by bleeding. The majority are caused by clots.
Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA)
A TIA is less severe than a full-blown stroke. TIA’s usually last a short time (10-15 minutes) and the person will recover within 24 hours. If you have a TIA, you will have the same symptoms as if you were having a stroke, however a TIA will usually not cause permanent damage to the brain. TIA is often called a warning stroke or a mini-stroke. It acts as a warning sign that you could have a more severe and damaging stroke in the future, and should be taken very seriously. Get immediate medical attention if you think you are having a TIA. Proper medical treatment can reduce your chances of having another TIA and prevent a fatal or disabling stroke.
Blood Clot in the Eye (Amaurosis Fugax)
Amaurosis fugax means that a blood clot is lodged in the blood vessel at the back of the eye, causing loss of vision. This is a type of TIA that affects the eye and should be investigated by your doctor to prevent a stroke from occurring in the future. The blood clot usually breaks up on its own, allowing your eyesight to recover.
Signs and symptoms
You may experience some or all of these symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Choking or swallowing problems
- Persistent nausea
- Fever or chills
- Pain that is not relieved by pain medications
How to spot a stroke F.A.S.T
Fast is an easy way to identify the early warning signs of a stroke:
F: Face drooping. Smile or show your teeth, does one side of your face droop?
A: Arm weakness. Lift your arms up for 10 seconds, does one arm drift down?
S: Speech difficulty. Repeat any sentence, is your speech slurred, are you using wrong words or unable to speak?
T: Time to call emergency medical services. Note the onset of symptoms and get to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. Every minute counts.