• Sudden numbness or weakness affecting one side of the body
• Slurred speech, trouble forming words or understanding what other people are saying to you
• Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, or sudden double vision
• Sudden room-spinning vertigo or sudden acute headache
Most people think pain is a symptom of stroke, but unlike heart attacks, most strokes do not hurt.
Many times, when people have sudden weakness or numbness, they think they have slept wrong or have just “overdone it.” So they wait for those feelings to disappear. Stroke sufferers cannot afford to wait. For every minute there is loss of blood flow to the brain, about one million brain cells are lost.
Those first minutes and hours are critical. It is important to get to the hospital as soon as possible, and ideally, to one that specializes in stroke care. Hospitals have intravenous, clot-busting drugs that can <?xml:namespace prefix = owc /> help re-open blood vessels and restore blood flow to brain arteries.
In comprehensive stroke centers, specialized, state-of-the-art treatments are available. In some cases, a mechanical clot retriever inserted through a catheter breaks up the clot. In others, medications are delivered directly to brain arteries.
While some stroke sufferers experience a degree of disability, the vast majority experience some recovery from it. Rehabilitation is very important for return of function, and the sooner the better.
Doctors previously thought stroke sufferers only had a short time to recover from a stroke. In reality, we now know that recovery continues beyond a year or more, and the more you work on it, the better you get.
Dr. Jessica Lee is medical director of the stroke program at UK HealthCare.