Strokes. Two different kinds. Symptoms of each.

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The video can be started at about 50 secs in. You can either watch the video or read this text which is based on the video, bar the last 3 paragraphs.  Basically it is about the 2 different kinds of strokes and their symptoms.  If we can get help with these early warning signs of an impending stroke, then hopefully the full blown stroke can be averted and this is just so much better.

The brain is dependant upon a constant supply of well oxygenated blood and without this it begins to dysfunction.  If the supply fails for only a few minutes, the brain cells begin to die off.  So a stroke is an interruption of blood flow to the brain for any number of reasons, and this causes brain cells to stop functioning or die.

There are 2 types of stroke.  The commonest, causing about 80% of strokes is the ischaemic stroke which means lack of blood flow or interruption of blood flow to the brain.  There are a variety of causes but the commonest is a cardiac source, for example cardiac abnormalities such as arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) creating turbulence in the flow which causes a clot to break off and travel to a smaller artery where it lodges and interrupts blood flow.

Haemorrhagic stroke occurs when there is bleeding into the brain – a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain causing blood to spill out into the brain itself or into the space surrounding the brain.  The most common cause is high blood pressure.  Over a long period of time, high blood pressure negatively affects small tiny arteries deep in the brain and eventually they may rupture and bleed.  This is called an intracranial aneurysm.  The only warning sign of this is a sudden extreme headache, quite the worst ever experienced.  If we don’t commonly get headaches and suddenly get an intense one, it is worth going to A & E with all due haste to check is isn’t an impending stroke.

Ischaemic stroke does have warning signs of a subsequent and more devastating stroke to follow.  Signs are a transient loss of vision of 1 or both eyes – like a shadow coming down over the eye/s then disappearing again.  This simple symptom is ignored by many but it means that the eye (or eyes) temporarily didn’t get enough blood.  Weakness or loss of feeling on 1 side of the body; temporary clumsiness of 1 extremity or other, difficulty speaking or understanding the spoken word are all signs of an impending stroke.  Again it is best to seek urgent attention before getting a full blown stroke.

There is one other symptom recognised by the Chinese of impending heart attacks – but equally an ischaemic stroke – and that is developing a crease in the ear lobe.  It is reckoned that this is caused by loss of blood flow to the ear lobes, a rich source of blood normally.

Apart from the huge advantage to be gained by avoiding a stroke, early diagnosis of the type of stroke threatening can be potentially life saving.  Once we have had a stroke, the doctors have to work out which sort it is before they can start to rescue us.  Because most strokes are ischaemic, then blood thinning medication such as aspirin will really  help.  However, if a haemorrhagic stroke is in the offing, then the last thing we want to take is blood thinning medication, which will make us bleed more and certainly make a full stroke extremely serious, if not life threatening.

As a summary the two different kinds of stroke, one usually caused by a blockage in one of the arteries leading to the brain and the other by a blood vessel bursting in the brain and causing a bleed, have different symptoms and need different treatment.  If these symptoms are acted on rapidly, we are in a fit state to help the doctors make the right diagnosis and the appropriate treatment will be given immediately, averting a full blown stroke.  If we are British and ignore the warning signs, when the full stroke happens, if we survive it, diagnosis will take longer and therefore the outcome worse.  With a stroke, time is of the essence to keep the brain as alive as possible. The body always talks to us.  Usually it is all to easy to ignore it.



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