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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:
- 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
- Occupational therapy
- Speech and language therapy
- Dietician support
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