Stroke is a prevalent medical condition with far-reaching consequences, impacting not only the patient but their family and broader society. It manifests suddenly, often causing paralysis, and can also impair speech or vision. Understanding stroke is crucial for prevention and timely treatment.

What Is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs due to a sudden disruption in the brain's blood supply. This can either be a result of a blood clot blocking the vessels or due to ruptured vessels bleeding directly into brain tissue. Around 12% of all strokes result from this latter cause. The impact of the stroke varies depending on the affected brain region.

Severity Based on Brain Location

The left hemisphere of the brain generally controls the right side of the body and speech, while the right hemisphere is responsible for the left side. The severity of stroke symptoms can thus depend on which part of the brain is affected.

Symptoms to Look Out For

Stroke symptoms aren't always immediate or severe. Early intervention can often salvage affected brain tissue. In some cases, timely treatment can even prevent the stroke from occurring.

Warning Signs of a Stroke

  • Temporary visual impairments in one or both eyes
  • Numbness or weakness in fingers, a hand, arm, leg, or an entire side of the body
  • Brief speech impairments or difficulty in comprehension
  • Sudden dizziness, nausea, or blurred vision
  • Temporary seizure episodes
  • Short bouts of mental confusion without loss of consciousness

Causes of Stroke

The primary cause is often the narrowing or blockage of cerebral or carotid arteries, usually due to arteriosclerosis. This chronic condition damages arterial walls and significantly narrows the space within the vessel, reducing blood flow.

Risk Factors You Should Know

  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated levels of blood lipids
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Gout
  • Use of oral contraceptives

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

For those over the age of 40, regular screenings by a healthcare specialist are highly recommended. Many risk factors for arteriosclerosis are modifiable if addressed early.

Steps to Prevent Arteriosclerosis

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Regularly monitor your blood pressure; manage high blood pressure under medical guidance
  • Adhere to a balanced diet and avoid foods high in saturated fats
  • Engage in regular exercise, particularly if your job is sedentary
  • Women on contraceptive pills should abstain from smoking
  • Manage and avoid long-term stressful situations

Immediate Actions Post-Stroke

If you or someone you know experiences a stroke, immediate medical intervention by a neurologist is crucial. Diagnostic tests can help identify the affected areas of the brain.

Diagnostic Techniques for Stroke

Several non-invasive and painless diagnostic tests are available to identify risk factors and vascular abnormalities:

  • Venous blood samples for laboratory evaluation
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Carotid Duplex Scan
  • Computed Tomography (CT Scan)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI & MRA)

Urgent Treatment Strategies for Stroke

Once stroke symptoms manifest, prompt action is essential. Seek immediate emergency medical help and hospital admission for specialised care.

Treatment for Stroke

  • Seek medical attention instantly if warning signs appear
  • For acute strokes, emergency treatment may involve thrombolytic drugs within the first few hours
  • For ongoing strokes, thrombolytic drugs can help dissolve clots to minimise tissue damage
  • In some instances, unaffected brain regions may assume lost functions

Complications to Watch For

Most complications occur within the first week and may include:

  • Recurrence of arteriosclerosis
  • Cerebral edoema
  • Bleeding from ruptured vessels
  • Hydrocephalus due to vascular blockage

Complications Beyond the First Week

After the initial week, patients may encounter additional complications such as:

  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Heart-related issues
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Pressure sores

Importance of Physiotherapy

Appropriate remedial physiotherapy is vital from an early stage to mitigate permanent physical damage.

Stroke Prognosis

For patients who have experienced mild strokes or transient ischemic attacks, monitoring and medical follow-up are crucial for preventing further damage. The mortality rate for stroke can vary significantly depending on numerous factors.

Care for Patients with Paralysis

The focus should be on preventing further complications and promoting physical rehabilitation. Caregivers should be aware of:

  • Paralysis may be followed by joint and muscle contractions, which can result in an inability to move. Continuous physiotherapy is necessary to address this condition.
  • Sensory loss is another possible effect, where patients may not feel hot, cold, or pain on one side of their body. This can lead to unintentional self-injury, so patients should receive instruction regarding the affected limb.
  • Emotional disturbance is common, with some patients experiencing confusion, memory loss, and irrational thinking. It is crucial for the family to understand and provide support, as this can greatly benefit the patient.
  • Aphasia is a speech disorder characterized by a partial or total loss of understanding or ability to use words. Speech therapy can aid in the recovery of communication skills within 6-12 months.

Emotional Support and Community

The role of the family and the patient's social support network cannot be overstated. Understanding, concern, and emotional support can greatly benefit stroke patients in their recovery journey.


Preventing a stroke is often more manageable than treating one. Most risk factors can be treated or controlled, and an annual physical examination is highly recommended for early diagnosis. Collaborative care involving the patient, family, and healthcare providers is the key to maintaining long-term health.