Stroke 101: Don’t Miss The Signs and Symptoms
Laddeus L. Sutton, M.D., F.A.C.C.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the Unites States and the number one cause of long-term major disability. It is estimated that there are 795,000 incident strokes in the United States each year, resulting in one of every seventeen deaths due to stroke.
A stroke is a neurological impairment caused by disruption in blood supply to a region of the brain. Strokes can be classified into two major categories:
- Ischemic strokes, which occur because a blood vessel supplying the brain is blocked
- Hemorrhagic strokes, which occur because a blood vessel in the brain ruptures
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a reversible episode of dysfunction of the brain that is secondary to a transient or temporary blockage of an artery. The signs and symptoms of a TIA are similar to those of a completed stroke; however, they typically last only a few minutes to several hours before resolving. The person who experiences a TIA usually presents to a physician with a normal neurological examination, so that the diagnosis is often based on history alone.
Transient ischemic attack is the most important forecaster of a potential, catastrophic stroke. Approximately 30% of patients who experience a TIA will eventually develop a stroke.
A stroke can be prevented in many cases, but only if early signs and symptoms are recognized. A stroke should be considered in anyone who has a sudden onset of neurological deficit or alteration in consciousness.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Transient Ischemic Attack and Stroke
1. Weakness on one side of your body or an inability to move a part or all of one side of your body, such as hand, arm, face or leg. Sagging of one side of the face may occur.
2. Numbness, tingling or a feeling of heaviness on one side of your body.
3. Trouble speaking or finding words, slurred or indistinct speech, trouble understanding others’ speech, trouble writing or reading.
4. Trouble seeing, such as blurred or indistinct vision, or double vision.
5. Vertigo, unsteadiness, dizziness, clumsiness, staggering, uncoordinated movements of one side of the body, or fainting.
The warning signs of a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) may be subtle or transient, but they foretell a potentially life-threatening neurological illness. Don’t delay in consulting your physician if you have experienced any of these symptoms.
Dr. Laddeus L. Sutton is a board-certified cardiologist with Mid Carolina Cardiology in Gastonia, NC. His clinical interests include preventive cardiac and vascular disease, invasive and non-invasive cardiac and vascular imaging, cardiomyopathy, and heart failure.