A stroke occurs when a blood clot or bleeding cuts off the blood supply, and therefore the oxygen, to the part of the brain. The affected area of the brain will eventually die. The effect of a stroke depends on how much of the brain is affected and where the clot or bleeding is. Different parts of the brain control different functions, so a clot in the part of the brain that controls speech, for example, will result in slurred or confused speech. Often the signs will be confined to one side of the body.
EFFECTS OF THE STROKE
If the bleeding or clot is in one of the larger blood vessels supplying a large area of the brain, then the stroke will often be immediately fatal. However, many people do survive, with some making a full recovery. Others may need extensive periods of rehabilitation and support to manage stroke-related problems such as reduced mobility.
If a person has had a stroke and is still conscious, help her to lie down with her head and shoulders raised. Speak in a reassuring voice and seek medical help.
Simple tests can be performed at home to assess whether or not a person has suffered a minor stroke. A minor stroke may cause weakness on one side of the body or loss of sensation.
Monitor airway and breathing and be prepared to resuscitate if necessary. Place the person in the recovery position if she becomes unconscious. If she is conscious, help her lie down with the head and shoulders slightly raised. Provide support and reassurance. The person will often be disoriented and may be speaking nonsense if the speech center is affected. Equally, she may hear what you are saying but not understand it. Speak in a reassuring tone with confidence. Call an ambulance. Wipe any dribbling away from the side of the face and prepared for the person to vomit.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Any combination of the following may be present. In minor stokes, the signs and symptoms may be very limited.
- History- the sufferer may have a history of smaller strokes over previous years, or may have been feeling unwell for some days with no known cause
- Blurred vision, partial loss of sight, or seeing flashing lights
- Confusion and disorientation, often mistaken for drunkenness
- Signs of paralysis or weakness, often only down one side of the body (confirm by asking the patient to hold out both arms in front of her and look drooping or shaking)
- Difficulty speaking; drooping mouth or smile (caused by minor paralysis)
- Dribbling from one side of the mouth
- Loss of consciousness (this can be gradual or sudden)
- Sometimes the pulse will be full and throbbing, the person’s breathing noisy, and the skin flushed