Stroke is the third leading cause of death in India and is the sixth leading cause of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). Over the past five years, the incidence of stroke has nearly doubled and roughly 87 percent are ischemic strokes (where a blood clot disrupts the supply of blood to a part of the brain) and 13 percent are haemorrhagic strokes (where an artery bursts to cause bleeding in the brain).
There are three main types of stroke – Ischemic stroke, Haemorrhagic stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). While a stroke can be fatal, knowing the signs and symptoms, and acting fast can go a long way in saving a patient from critical outcomes.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke usually occurs when there is a blockage in the blood vessels or a rupture that can interrupt or reduce the oxygen supply to the brain. In such a condition, the brain fails to receive the adequate amount of oxygen or nutrients and as a result, the cells in the brain start to die.
Signs and Symptoms of Stroke
The common symptoms associated with stroke are:
a headache, possibly with vomiting or altered consciousness
difficulty in speaking and understanding speech, leading to confusion
inability to move the leg, arm or parts of the face
numbness especially on one side of the body
vision issues in one or both eyes
lack of coordination, dizziness and difficulty in walking
Stroke can cause long-term disabilities or health problems. Based on how fast the diagnosis and treatment are carried out, a person can also experience permanent or temporary disabilities.
In some cases, patients of stroke may also experience:
Bowel control or bladder problems
Weakness or paralysis on both or one side of the body
Difficulty in expressing or controlling the emotions
There are various diagnostic tests that can be done to determine the stroke type. These include:
Physical check-up: Doctors check muscle strength, sensation, reflexes, vision and coordination. A doctor may also check blood pressure, listen to the carotid arteries and examine the blood vessels at the back of the eyes.
CT-scan: CT-scan can reveal strokes, hemorrhages, tumours and other conditions within the brain.
Blood tests: Blood tests are done to determine if there is a high risk of bleeding or blood clots.
MRI scan: MRI scan uses radio waves and magnets to create an image of the brain, to detect damaged brain tissue.
Acting B.E.F.A.S.T is Crucial for Stroke Patients
The acronym BEFAST is used by experts to not only recognise the signs or symptoms of a stroke but get the treatments they desperately require.
BEFAST stands for:
Balance: The person may suddenly have trouble with balance and coordination
Eyes: They could experience sudden blurred, double or total loss of vision.
Face: Tell the person to smile. Watch for signs of whether the face droops.
Arms: Tell the person to raise both arms. Watch if there is any weakness.
Speech: Tell the person to say a simple phrase. Look out for slurred or strange-sounding words.
Time: Time is crucial. Get professional medical help right away.
Finally, a stroke patient needs to be treated within three hours from the time of the attack. A delay in seeking treatment can lead to instances of lifetime disability and may even be fatal in some cases.
(Author: Dr Rajnish Kumar, Head of the Department, Neurology, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram)