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When Stroke Happens

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)

Strokes, or “brain attacks,” disable Americans more than any other disease. With an interruption of blood to the brain, a stroke may have similar symptoms; but as everyone’s brain is different, so are the effects of each person’s stroke.

There is no rhyme or reason to the severity of strokes or to the recovery a person may need to undergo. Stroke damage can affect a loved one’s entire body and cause a wide range of disabilities, from mild to severe. Paralysis, difficulty thinking and speaking, as well as a multitude of emotional issues are just some of the challenges a caregiver can expect to see a loved one experience post-stroke.

Learning to help through this transitional period with optimism and organization will make life easier, and happier, for both caregiver and loved one.

Definition

Even though each loved one has a different experience after a stroke, they have one thing in common: life is changed in some way or another. It’s important a caregiver know which type of stroke their loved one is facing, so symptoms, precautions and/or treatments can be tailored accordingly.

There are two kinds of major strokes. The most common, an ischemic stroke, is caused by a blood clot which blocks a brain’s blood vessel. The other, a hemorrhagic stroke, is caused when a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into the brain.

A different stroke, commonly known as a “mini-stroke,” is the TIA, or Transient Ischemic Attack. These should be taken as seriously as a major stroke because they are usually a precursor of what’s to come. The only difference is that in a TIA, the blockage in the blood vessel is temporary and the incident lasts less than five minutes— usually a minute.

Many strokes are not preceded by a TIA, but one-third of people who experience a TIA will experience a major stroke within a year. There are many new technologies available today to help prevent serious damage if the stroke is caught early on. Knowing the symptoms and signs may spare a loved one from permanent brain damage. Professionals say “time lost is brain lost” and that if a person is even suspected of having a stroke, call 911 immediately and don’t wait for symptoms to clear up.

Here are the main symptoms of a major stroke and TIA:

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness in face, arms or legs, especially on one side of the body

  2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

  3. Sudden trouble seeing

  4. Sudden trouble walking as well as dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

  5. Sudden, severe headache

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