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A stroke (cerebral vascular accident or CVA) occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off. This is caused by either a blood clot (ischaemic stroke - 80%) or a burst blood vessel (haemorrhagic stroke - 20%).

Symptoms that subside within a few minutes with full recovery may be caused by a mini stroke (transient ischaemic attack or TIA). This is often seen as a warning or temporary stroke. These should be taken seriously as an indicator of a full stroke. People who have a mini stroke have a 1-2 in 10 chance of full stroke within a month. Strokes are the third main cause of death in the UK (approximately 4.5million people every year).

A stroke is extremely serious requiring treatment straight away. The longer the brain is starved of oxygen, the greater the risk of brain damage.

Possible early signs and symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Temporary blurred or double vision
  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Sudden or severe headache
  • Sudden numbness or weakness
  • Loss of balance or trouble walking
  • Inability to move one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing

Symptoms are dependant on which part of the brain has been affected.

Additional symptoms following a stroke may include:

  • Depression (1 in 5 people)
  • Altered/impaired mobility & dexterity (including joint and muscle stiffness)
  • Altered/impaired cognitive function
  • Altered/impaired behavioural function
  • Altered/impaired memory (1 in 6 people)
  • Speech difficulties (4 out of 10 people)
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Incontinence (approximately half)
  • Sight problems (1 in 5 people)

Treatment / Therapy

  • Usually hospitalisation is required
  • Preventative medication (blood pressure control, diabetes control, cholesterol lowering drugs, anti-coagulants may be used in specific conditions)
  • Surgery to remove clots
  • A stay on a specialised stroke unit may be required for rehabilitation
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech and language therapy
  • Dietician support

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