Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Stroke

What is stroke? Stroke is not a single disease, but rather a pattern of symptoms that arises when a blood clot or ruptured blood vessel obstructs blood flow to parts of the brain and deprives its cells of vital oxygen.

The brain consumes about 20 percent of the body's oxygen and 70 percent of its glucose, though representing just two percent of its weight. This high metabolic rate, sensitivity to changes in blood flow, and dependence on continuous blood flow are what make stroke so dangerous. If blood supply to the brain is interrupted for as little as four minutes, brain cells begin to die. They are not replaced. There are two forms of stroke: ischemic - blockage of a blood vessel supplying the brain, and hemorrhagic - bleeding into or around the brain.

Although stroke is a disease of the brain, it can affect the entire body. The symptoms of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body (hemiparesis); sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble with walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination; or sudden severe headache with no known cause. Stroke patients may have difficulty controlling their emotions or may express inappropriate emotions. Recurrent stroke is frequent; about 25 percent of people who recover from their first stroke will have another stroke within 5 years.

According to the National Stroke Association (NSA), it is important to learn the three Rs of stroke:

Reduce the risk.

Recognize the symptoms.

Respond by calling medical help or local ambulance service.

Generally there are three treatment stages for stroke: prevention, therapy immediately after the stroke, and post-stroke rehabilitation. Therapies to prevent a first or recurrent stroke are based on treating an individual's underlying risk factors for stroke, such as hypertension, atrial fibrillation, and diabetes. Acute stroke therapies try to stop a stroke while it is happening by quickly dissolving the blood clot causing an ischemic stroke or by stopping the bleeding of a hemorrhagic stroke. Post-stroke rehabilitation helps individuals overcome disabilities that result from stroke damage. Medication or drug therapy is the most common treatment for stroke.

Stroke is a medical emergency and should be treated as such. Getting treatment can lessen the effects of a stroke and disability, but in order to be evaluated and treated, stroke victims need to get to the hospital as soon as they experience symptoms. Being treated within three to six hours at a hospital with a stroke team provides the best chance to minimize long-term effects of stroke.

Scientists are working to develop new and better ways to help the brain repair itself to restore important functions. New advances in imaging and rehabilitation have shown that the brain can compensate for function lost as a result of stroke. Besides, there are centers offer stroke treatment by experienced medical professionals who use the latest technology to help the patients.

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