Stroke is a malfunction in the brain and is a medical emergency. Certain conditions cause reduced blood supply to the brain and as a result depriving it of vital nutrients (oxygen) for energy which can kill brain cells. Symptoms depend on the part of brain involved. Stroke is the most common cause of disability and a leading cause of mortality worldwide.
Types of Stroke
There are two types of stroke, as follows:
Hemorrhagic stroke: Leaking or bursting of a blood vessel of the brain.
Ischemic stroke: Blocked artery.
Both types lead to interrupted blood flow to the brain.
Elderly people, males and people with a family history of stroke are at a higher danger of having a stroke.
Modifiable risk factors are important because a person can control them. These include smoking, heavy drinking, high salt intake and high fat diet, high blood cholesterol levels and lack of exercise/obesity.
Stroke in Children
Stroke has no age limits and it can strike children, even infants. Causes of stroke in children can be congenital heart defects e.g. abnormal valves and infections, sickle cell disease of blood, trauma to a large artery supplying blood and oxygen to brain.
Warning Signs of Stroke
Spot a stroke FAST with the help of following signs:
Many conditions that are similar to stroke include:
Conversion/functional (psychiatric disorder);
Seizures and postictal paralysis;
Brain tumors; infections, and migraine.
Stroke in Pakistan
Stroke is on the rise in Pakistan because of the risk factors such as Diabetes. By 2020 Pakistan will be the 4th most populous country with Diabetes. Also, every third person in Pakistan is hypertensive which is again a high risk factor for stroke. Sadly, diabetics and hypertensive patients are not properly diagnosed often or they are diagnosed when the condition becomes uncontrollable. Prevention is the key here.
Brain imaging helps identify the brain tissue damage. Diagnosis should be made as early as possible to initiate the treatment depending upon the type of stroke and cause.
Firstly, many specialists including cardiologists, brain specialists, vascular surgeons and brain surgeons get involved to diagnose and treat a stroke. To treat an ischemic stroke, doctors must quickly restore blood flow to brain. Emergency treatment with medications is applied. Therapy with clot-busting drugs must start within 3 hours if they are injected into the vein and the sooner, the better.
Children with congenital heart problems may need surgery and antibiotic therapy and those with blood disease may require blood transfusions.
It is possible to prevent Stroke by modifying the risk factors other than age, gender, and ethnicity since such factors are in our control. Preventive measures are cited below:
Healthy diet and regular exercise,
Avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol,
Control diabetes and lowering the blood pressure if high.
Stroke is an important cause of disability and death so it should always be ruled out in the emergency department or at home by keeping the warning signs in mind which are very much indicative of this life-threatening condition.