With strokes occurring so often, it is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of stroke in order to obtain treatment early on—when it is most important. The most crucial key to recovery is immediate medical attention. Whether it is you or someone around you that experiences these symptoms, it is critical that someone calls 911 right away.
Many people associate pain with a stroke. However, that is not common. “Most people have weakness, trouble with speech or walking or coordination problems,” says Fred G. Wenger, DO, medical director of the Emergency Department at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. “A lot of it will depend on where the stroke is located.” Stroke warning signs are indications that the brain is not getting enough oxygen. Call for help immediately if you or someone around you experiences one or more of these signs.
- Sudden weakness, paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden onset of double vision, dimness or loss of vision
- Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding language
- Sudden severe headache without apparent cause
- Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or loss of balance, especially in combination with other signs
Sometimes people will experience stroke symptoms that disappear within a few minutes. These transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or mini-strokes are caused by temporary interruptions to the blood supply of the brain. TIAs are a pre-sign of stroke and should not be ignored. “Many times symptoms will be gone long before the person goes to the emergency department,” Wenger explains. “Five percent of people who experience a TIA will go on to have a stroke in the next 48 hours. In the next 30 days, that number rises to as high as 10 percent. That is not minimal.”
About one-third of people who have a TIA eventually will have a stroke, one-third will continue to experience occasional TIAs and the final third will not experience further symptoms. Your doctor will perform tests to determine the cause of TIAs and treat the problem through surgery or medication, if possible.
There is no way of knowing when a stroke will occur. However, there are critical actions that can happen in case of the onset of a stroke.
If you start to show signs of a stroke, be prepared to take action.
- Do not ignore warning signs , even if they go away.
- Record the time the first symptoms began. Timing is critical, because it determines which medications can be given.
- Record how the first symptoms began.
- Do not eat or drink anything. One of the problems associated with stroke is difficulty swallowing, so eating or drinking could be dangerous.
- Collect any medications that you currently are taking. (Bring the bottles, if possible.) If the bottles are not available, write them down along with the dosages or be sure to tell the paramedics or emergency department.
- Call 911 right away. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital.
- If someone around you may be having a stroke, take action for them by calling 911 right away.
- Be sure to keep a record of any medications you may be taking.
- Prepare a health record that is easily accessible in an emergency and include doctor names, previous surgical procedures and health conditions.
- Prepare a list of emergency phone numbers near the phone or in your wallet or purse.
- Find out which hospitals are nearest you and which ones have stroke centers with 24-hour care. UT Medical Center offers the highest level of technology, the best trained physicians and nurses and a stroke team available 24 hours a day.
Anyone can experience a stroke. Strokes can occur at any age and in any race or gender. Your risk of stroke, however, doubles every 10 years after the age of 35. Risk factors that you cannot change include age, race, gender, family history of strokes and any prior heart attacks or strokes.
Although anyone can have a stroke, certain risk factors may increase your chances including the following.
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Excessive Alcohol Use
- Some Illegal Drugs
If you or someone around you is experiencing symptoms of stroke, call 911 immediately. To find out if you are at risk for a stroke, make an appointment with your doctor or call 1.877.UT.CARES (1.877.882.2737) to make an appointment today! Please join me today in praying for all those that have been affected by stroke, whether it be yourself, a friend, or a dear loved one. Ask God to bless over them, and continue to heal them.