By Lisa Marinelli Smith
Every second counts when someone suffers a stroke. The more time passes, the more brain cells are damaged and die.
That’s why recognizing the signs of stroke early will give your loved ones the best chance of recovering.
Strokes occur when a clot blocks blood flow to the brain. This type of stroke is called an ischemic stroke. They also occur when a blood vessel ruptures, which is known as a hemorrhagic stroke. In both cases, when the brain can’t get the oxygen-rich blood it needs, brain cells begin to die.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, for every minute brain cells are deprived of oxygen during a stroke, 1.9 billion brain cells die.
Another type of stroke, a TIA (transient ischemic attack), is referred to as a “mini stroke” because it’s caused by a temporary clot and resolves quickly. Although mini strokes do not leave lasting side effects, TIAs signal that your stroke risk is higher.
According to the American Stroke Association, strokes are the fifth highest cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of disability. However, prompt treatment and a rigorous rehab regimen after a stroke can drastically reduce lasting effects.
To remember what symptoms may signal a stroke, rely on this acronym: BE FAST.
B: Balance – Is the person having trouble with balance or coordination? Can the person walk?
E: Eyes – Does the person have blurry vision or trouble seeing out of both eyes?
F: Face – Is one side of the face drooping? Ask the person to smile. Is it lopsided?
A: Arm Weakness – Is one arm numb. When you ask the person to lift both arms, does one arm drift downward?
S: Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person hard to understand? Ask them to recite a simple sentence.
Ischemic strokes, caused when blood clots block blood vessels, are the most commonly diagnosed strokes. They account for close to 90 percent of strokes.
A drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) is the gold standard for treating and even reversing the effects of an ischemic stroke if administered within a few hours of a stroke. The tPA breaks up the clot and restores blood flow.
Some people may need to have the clot removed through a minimally invasive procedure in which a doctor threads a catheter through an artery in the groin to the blocked vessel in the brain. The clot is suctioned out or removed with a stent that opens and grabs it. Treatment should be administered within six hours of the onset of a stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.
About 13 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic strokes. This type of stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain, compressing brain tissue.
An aneurysm, a weak area in the blood vessel that becomes enlarged, causes hemorrhagic strokes. An arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a cluster of abnormally formed blood vessels in the brain, can also cause a hemorrhagic stroke if one of the vessels ruptures.
Treatments for hemorrhagic strokes include surgery to remove blood and pressure in the brain and repair blood vessels. For an aneurysm, doctors try to keep it from bursting by placing a tiny clamp at the base or inserting a coil to block blood flow. Other treatment options are also available for hemorrhagic strokes.
TIAs are known as mini strokes because the effects are short-lived, but they are a warning sign that future strokes may occur. A clot also causes them, but the clot dislodges on its own or dissolves.
The risk of having a full-blown stroke is highest in the 90 days following a TIA. About 9 percent to 17 percent of patients who have a TIA have a stroke within 90 days, according to the American Stroke Association.
EEGs and strokes
EEGs, short for electroencephalography, record the brain’s electrical activity. Neurologists use EEG readings to determine if the brain is functioning normally or if a condition or injury has interrupted how the brain communicates. Neurologists can use EEGs to determine how a brain functions after a stroke.
NeuLine Health offers at-home, ambulatory EEGs for patients, usually over 72 hours. The comfortable setting at home lends itself to more accurate results. For more information about our EEGs, call NeuLine Health at (844) 212-5321 or visit our website.
Around ten years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged the unmet need — and urgency — of including patient perspective in drug and device development in a systematic way.