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Am I Having a Stroke?
Jan 10th, 2011 Headlines, Tales from the Clinic

A 78 year old woman comes to clinic saying that she doesn’t “feel well”.  She says while she was reading the paper that morning, she suddenly developed numbness of her left arm and leg.  She knew that something was wrong but didn’t want to disturb her husband who was asleep in the other room.  Instead, she went to the kitchen and drank a glass of water and lay down on the couch for about an hour.  When she got up, her symptoms had improved but had not disappeared.  She finally called her daughter who brought her to the urgent care clinic for evaluation.  “Do you think she’s having a stroke?” her daughter asked.

Discussion

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke.   Sometimes it’s caused by a hemorrhage in the brain.  More commonly it occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot.  If blood flow is not restored promptly, brain cells die causing permanent brain damage.

The biggest risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, advanced age, and family history.

The symptoms of stroke depend on what part of the brain is damaged and can include confusion, numbness or weakness on one part of the body, trouble walking or talking, and vision problems.

An easy way to remember the common symptoms of stroke is to think of the word “FAST”:

F is for FACE…If one side of the face appears crooked or drooping, think stroke.

A is for ARMS…If you have difficulty raising one arm, think stroke.

S is for SPEECH…If your words are slurred or you’re unable to speak, think stroke.

T is for TIME…If you have any of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately to ensure you get treated FAST.

That’s because stroke is a medical emergency!  It is vitally important for someone to be evaluated in an emergency room as soon as possible because if treatment is started within three hours of when the stroke symptoms began, brain damage can be minimized or even prevented.

If you or someone you know may be having a stroke, don’t hesitate.  Call 911 immediately.  Don’t worry about disturbing a loved one.  Don’t try to drive yourself in the car.  And don’t go to an urgent care clinic.  Call 911 and let an ambulance rush you to the nearest ER.  Time is of the essence.

Follow-up

More than 8 hours had passed since the patient’s symptoms had begun, so she was sent by ambulance to the Emergency Room.  There she was admitted to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment.  Fortunately, her symptoms slowly resolved over time and she was sent home several days later on medications to reduce her risk of future strokes.  This patient was very lucky.



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