The following may be signs and symptoms of a stroke. Call 9-1-1 or seek emergency medical care right away if you or someone you know has any of the following symptoms:
- One side of their face is drooping or feels numb.
- One arm feels weak or numb.
- One side of the body feels weak or numb.
- Loss of balance, or feeling dizzy.
- Sudden severe headache.
- Trouble seeing out of 1 or both eyes.
- Trouble speaking, unable to talk, hard to understand, or having a hard time finding the right words.
The American Stroke Association recommends using the FAST acronym to identify signs of a stroke.
F: Face drooping
A: Arm weakness
S: Speech changes
T: Time to call 9-1-1
Get Help Right AwayIt is very important to get medical care right away if you or someone you know is having a stroke. Early treatment will improve the chances of a full recovery. Call 9-1-1 right away if you think someone is having a stroke.
Tests Done in the Emergency Department
When someone who may be having a stroke arrives in the emergency department, some of these tests may be performed right away to diagnose a stroke:
- CT scan
- CT angiocardiogram
- Blood tests
The following tests may be done later on during the hospital stay:
- Carotid ultrasound
- CT angiogram
- Carotid angiogram
Fast Treatment is Important
The best treatment for a stroke is to stop it while it is happening. If you are having any stroke symptoms, call 911 and get medical treatment right away. Doctors will need to dissolve or remove the blood clot, or stop the bleeding.
The longer a patient waits for treatment, the more damage there may be to the brain. For this reason, our system works to speed up stroke diagnosis and treatment. As a result of close collaboration between the stroke program, MMC's Emergency Department, and state-wide stroke initiatives, more patients are able to receive stroke care within the three-hour window needed for tPA administration.
Stroke patients may be given a clot-busting drug called tPA. It is considered to be the gold standard. This drug helps to dissolve the blood clot and improve blood flow to the part of the brain affected by the stroke. This drug can only be given within a certain time frame, so it is important to get to a hospital as soon as possible.
MMC also offers endovascular stroke treatments to remove the clot by sending a catheter to the site of the blocked blood vessel in the brain. Patients must meet certain criteria to be eligible.
Sometimes these procedures involve the administration of tPA directly into the blood clot (called intra-arterial treatment) to help dissolve the blockage. In other procedures, the doctor may be able to remove the blood clot. Research has shown that certain patients may be eligible for an extended treatment window for this procedure, but never delay emergency medical treatment if stroke is suspected.
An endovascular procedure or mechanical thrombectomy is an option for eligible patients having a stroke in a large vessel in the brain.
After emergency care has been given, treatment options may also include the use of blood thinners; and physical, occupational, and speech therapies.
Stroke Rehabilitation and Therapy
Stroke rehabilitation and therapy help patients recover from damage caused by stroke. Stroke rehabilitation is focused on helping you get back to leading a healthy and active lifestyle. Some members of the rehab team that will help you on this journey include: physiatrist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, doctors and nurses.
There are different types of stroke rehab and you will be referred to the type that best matches your needs. Patients often can get stroke therapy services close to home, so there is no need to travel far during stroke recovery.
What are the risk factors for stroke?
These risk factors may increase the chance of having a stroke:
- Age: The likelihood of having a stroke increases with age for both males and females. Although stroke is more common among the elderly, a lot of people under 65 also have strokes. Even babies and children can have a stroke.
- Family history of heart disease
- Family history of sickle cell disease
- Being African American, Native American or Alaskan Native
- Having a previous stroke, TIA or heart attack
- Smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Drug or alcohol misuse or abuse
- Inactive lifestyle
Although people cannot change some risk factors for stroke, like age and family history, there are lifestyle changes that can lower the risk for having a stroke. Your doctor can help you make healthy lifestyle changes and connect you with resources to help lower the risk for stroke.
There are some healthy lifestyle changes that can lower your risk for stroke. These lifestyle changes include:
- Lower & manage high blood pressure
- Control cholesterol levels
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Be physically active
- Eat healthy foods
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Limit alcohol
- Quit smoking
- Avoid second-hand smoke
Ask your doctor for help with making these healthy lifestyle changes.