First steps if you think someone is having a strokeDuring a stroke, time is of the essence. Call emergency services and get to the hospital immediately.
A stroke may cause loss of balance or unconsciousness, which may result in a fall. If you think you or someone around you may be having a stroke, follow these steps:
- Call emergency services. If you’re having stroke symptoms, have someone else call for you. Stay as calm as possible while waiting for emergency help.
- If you’re caring for someone else having a stroke, make sure they’re in a safe, comfortable position. Preferably, this should be lying on one side with their head slightly raised and supported in case they vomit.
- Check to see if they’re breathing. If they’re not breathing, perform CPR. If they’re having difficulty breathing, loosen any constrictive clothing, such as a tie or scarf.
- Talk in a calm, reassuring manner.
- Cover them with a blanket to keep them warm.
- Don’t give them anything to eat or drink.
- If the person is showing any weakness in a limb, avoid moving them.
- Observe the person carefully for any change in condition. Be prepared to tell the emergency operator about their symptoms and when they started. Be sure to mention if the person fell or hit their head.
Know the signs of a strokeDepending on the severity of the stroke, symptoms may be subtle or severe. Before you can help, you need to know what to watch for. To check for warning signs of a stroke, use the FASTacronym, which stands for:
- Face: Is the face numb or does it droop on one side?
- Arms: Is one arm numb or weaker than the other? Does one arm stay lower than the other when trying to raise both arms?
- Speech: Is speech slurred or garbled?
- Time: If you answered yes to any of the above, it’s time to call emergency services immediately.
- blurred vision, dim vision, or loss of vision, especially in one eye
- tingling, weakness, or numbness on one side of the body
- loss of bladder or bowel control
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- loss of balance or consciousness
Causes of strokeA stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or when there’s bleeding in the brain.
An ischemic stroke happens when arteries to the brain are blocked by a blood clot. Many ischemic strokes are caused by a buildup of plaque in your arteries. If a clot forms within an artery in the brain, it’s called thrombotic stroke. Clots that form somewhere else in your body and travel to the brain may cause embolic stroke.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and bleeds.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA), or ministroke, may be hard to identify by symptoms alone. It’s a quick event. Symptoms go away completely within 24 hours and often last fewer than five minutes. TIA is caused by a temporary block of blood flow to the brain. It’s a sign that a more severe stroke may be coming.
Stroke recoveryAfter first aid and treatment, the stroke recovery process varies. It depends on many factors, such as how fast treatment was received or if the person has other medical conditions.
The first stage of recovery is known as acute care. It takes place in a hospital. During this stage, your condition is assessed, stabilized, and treated. It’s not unusual for someone who’s had a stroke to stay in the hospital for up to a week. But from there, the recovery journey is often just beginning.
Rehabilitation is usually the next stage of stroke recovery. It may take place in the hospital or an inpatient rehabilitation center. If stroke complications aren’t severe, rehabilitation may be outpatient.
The goals of rehabilitation are:
- strengthen motor skills
- improve mobility
- limit use of the unaffected limb to encourage mobility in the affected limb
- use range-of-motion therapy to ease muscle tension