Signs You Might Be Having a Stroke

More than 800,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke each year. According to the CDC, about 610,000 thousand of these are first-time incidents. However, about 185,000 strokes – nearly 1 in 4 – are individuals that have had previous strokes.

Understanding the symptoms and signs of a stroke can save your life. Getting immediate medical treatment also minimizes a stroke’s damage to the body and mind.

Different types of stroke

A stroke occurs due to a lack of sufficient blood and oxygen supply to the brain. This is a medical emergency that requires urgent care. Symptoms of stroke include slurred speech, difficulty walking, disorientation, and paralysis of the face, arms, and legs.

Early treatment at an emergency room (ER) includes TPA, a blood clot buster that minimizes brain damage. Other treatments performed limit complications and prevent additional strokes from occurring. Treatment may differ based on the type of stroke a patient has experienced.

Ischemic stroke

This is the most common type of stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain gets blocked. Atherosclerosis is a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. This buildup causes the blood clots that can cut off the brain’s blood supply, resulting in stroke.

Ischemic strokes are often called ‘mini strokes’ since they stem from a temporary blockage. Symptoms can last from minutes to hours and require immediate medical assistance. Transient ischemic attacks (TIA) typically don’t cause permanent brain damage but should never be taken lightly. TIAs can serve as precursors to extensive strokes and are warning signs.

Hemorrhagic stroke

Hemorrhagic strokes are less common but just as serious as ischemic strokes. These strokes happen when a patient’s blood vessels weaken and bleed into the brain. Emergency surgery may be necessary to stop the bleeding and brain damage.

Warning signs of a stroke

Strokes have various symptoms and signs you can watch out for. These include:

  • Numbness or weakness in the arms, legs, and facial muscles. A person experiencing stroke-like symptoms may have part of their face drooping.
  • Slurred speech, difficulty understanding people, and disorientation.
  • Blurry vision in one or both of the eyes.
  • Dizziness and balance issues.

Medical experts use a common acronym – FAST – for remembering stroke symptoms:

  • Face drooping on one side – ask the person to smile and check for droopiness on one side of the face.
  • Arm weakness – ask the person to raise both arms and see if they have difficulties holding one up.
  • Speech problems – ask the person to repeat a phrase and check for slurred or incoherent speech.
  • Time to contact 9-1-1 – if any of the above mentioned symptoms are present or worsen.

Strokes require prompt emergency room treatments. If you suspect that someone is experiencing a stroke, get emergency help immediately. Even a few minutes can prevent lasting damages.

What is the difference between an urgent care facility and a freestanding emergency room? Learn more here.

What to expect in the ER

Emergency rooms are equipped to handle patients experiencing strokes. Ischemic strokes and hemorrhagic strokes are treated in various ways, so here’s what you can expect for stroke treatment.

Ischemic stroke treatments

The stroke victim will be treated as soon as they arrive at the emergency room. Hospitals alert physicians, nurses, and medical personnel so they are ready for the patient’s arrival. After the doctor on call determines the type of stroke, they may administer treatment, including:

  • Aspirin – this is usually the first form of treatment. Aspirin is a potent medication that prevents blood clots and reduces the chances of subsequent strokes.
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator (TPA) – this is another powerful drug that is mainly administered intravenously. Also known as alteplase, TPA dissolves blood clots. Treatment should commence within 4.5 hours of symptoms for patients to make a full recovery.

Other treatments for preventing further strokes

There are other treatments for preventing further strokes:

  • Angioplasty or Stents – In this nonsurgical procedure, a catheter is inserted, usually in the groin area, leading up to the carotid arteries in the neck. The artery is inflated, and a stent is inserted to prevent collapse and further strokes. 
  • Carotid Endarterectomy – An incision is made in the neck to remove plaque from the carotid artery. Once the artery is opened, the physician safely removes the plaque that can cause further strokes.

These treatments, of course, are at the discretion of the presiding physician and how the patient is responding to treatment.

Hemorrhagic stroke treatments

Hemmoragic stroke treatments focus on controlling bleeding and reducing pressure on the brain. Here are a couple of treatments for this type of stroke:

  • Surgical procedures – surgery may be needed to repair blood vessels if they cause a hemorrhagic stroke. These include clamping an aneurysm to prevent it from bursting. In addition, coils may be inserted into an aneurysm to block blood flow. Radiosurgery also removes/repairs malformations in the brain, while intracranial bypasses of blood vessels may be performed to repair blood flow.
  • Medications – drugs may be given to reduce pressure and prevent seizures. Patiens taking Warfarin may need these medications that reverse the effect to control bleeding in the brain. In cases of severe bleeding, surgery may be performed to remove excess blood.

Family First ER offers emergency care for stroke victims

Understanding the signs and symptoms of a stroke may save a life. It is also essential to know where the nearest medical center is.

Family First ER is staffed with medical professionals that can take care of most medical emergencies. Our doctors and nurses are fully prepared to handle strokes and all types of medical emergencies with state-of-the-art equipment. Contact us today to learn more about our emergency services for stroke patients.