Is it a Stroke?
Prompt action can save lives, improve recovery and reduce ongoing costs from stroke to families, caregivers and the health services. It is vital to recognise when someone is having a stroke and to start treatment as soon as possible because the sooner medical treatment begins, the more likely brain damage can be reduced and a better outcome achieved.
The longer a stroke remains untreated, the greater the chance of stroke-related brain damage. Emergency medical treatment soon after symptoms begin improves the chance of survival and successful rehabilitation.
The brain is divided into several areas that control different functions. These include how you move your body, receive sensory messages (such as touch, sight or smell), use language and think. Because different arteries supply different areas of the brain, where the brain is damaged will determine which functions are affected. Every stroke is different. Each person affected by stroke will have different problems and different needs.
The way in which you might be affected depends on where in the brain the stroke happens and how big the stroke is. A stroke on the right side of the brain generally causes problems on the left side of the body. A stroke on the left side of the brain causes problems on the right side of the body. Some strokes happen at the base of the brain and can cause problems with eating, breathing and moving.
Common Signs of a Stroke
- Sudden weakness and/or numbness or paralysis of the face, arm and/or leg on either or both sides of the body
- Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding others
- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or an unexplained fall or difficulty controlling movements, especially with any of the other signs
- Sudden loss of vision, sudden blurring or decreased vision in one or both eyes
Headache, usually severe and abrupt onset or unexplained change in the pattern of headaches
- Difficulty swallowing
Learn the F.A.S.T Test
FACE: Is their face drooping on one side? Has their mouth dropped? Can they smile?
ARM: Can they raise one or both arms? Is one arm weak?
SPEECH: Can they speak at all? Is their speech jumbled or slurred? Do they understand you?
TIME: Time is critical. Call an ambulance immediately. Alternatively, get to the nearest hospital immediately.
Stroke is always a Medical Emergency – Act FAST
The signs of stroke may occur alone or in combination and they can last a few seconds or up to 24 hours and then disappear. When symptoms disappear within 24 hours, this episode may be a mini stroke or Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA). If you have a TIA, you will have the same symptoms as if you were having a stroke, e.g. weakness on one side of the body, droopiness on one side of the face, or loss of speech. A TIA does not usually cause permanent damage to the brain. It is vital to get immediate medical attention if you think you are having a TIA, as the proper medical treatment can reduce your chances of having another TIA and prevent a fatal or disabling stroke. Operations are not often needed to prevent another stroke or TIA. However, a few patients who have narrowed blood vessels in the neck may need an operation. The doctor who sees you in the ward or clinic can arrange tests to check for blood vessel narrowing.
Even if the symptoms go away quickly or don’t cause pain you should call an ambulance immediately.