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Spotting Stroke: Do Not Ignore These Warning Signs And Symptoms

When the brain's blood supply is cut off, a stroke occurs. A blood clot or blocked artery is the cause of this in roughly 80% of instances. Strokes can also occur when a blood vessel is injured.

Spotting Stroke: Do Not Ignore These Warning Signs And Symptoms

It is crucial to identify the symptoms of stroke as soon as possible

Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability and death in India. A recent ICMR research revealed that India reports the highest incidence and prevalence of stroke cases, with 1.29 million new cases and 9.65 million existing cases. Stroke also resulted in 6,99,000 deaths in 2019, which accounts for nearly 7.4% of the total deaths in the country .

Despite the staggering numbers, many people are still unaware of the warning signs and why it is crucial to act swiftly. According to the State of Stroke survey, less than 1 in 4 Indians are aware of the symptoms of a brain stroke. Furthermore, only 41% considered brain stroke a cause for concern, and a mere 23% were aware of the associated risk factors. This lack of awareness has been a major contributor to the growing incidence.

The consequences of stroke can result in lasting physical and emotional implications on a patient's life. These changes can reduce the quality of life and often necessitate extensive caregiving and financial resources. All of this underscores the importance of recognizing the warning signs/symptoms, managing risk factors, and seeking timely intervention to mitigate the consequences of this life-altering condition.

Here are some common symptoms of stroke:

•    Sudden Numbness or Weakness: Abrupt numbness or weakness in the arm, leg, or face, generally on one side of the body, is one of the most common indications of a stroke. One side of the face drooping can also be a symptom.
•    Difficulty Speaking: Speech issues, such as slurred speech or trouble pronouncing words correctly, are also signs of a stroke
•    Impaired Vision: Abrupt blurring or blackening of the vision in one or both eyes can indicate a stroke.
•    Severe Headache: A sudden, severe headache without any cause could also indicate a stroke. This is more common in hemorrhagic strokes, where a blood vessel bursts in the brain.
•    Dizziness and Lack of Coordination: People having a stroke may feel lightheaded, and unsteady, have trouble walking, and experience a  severe lack of coordination. 

The quickest way to recognize if an individual is having a stroke is using 'BE FAST', an acronym and a valuable tool where each letter represents a critical aspect of stroke symptoms:

•    B: Loss of Balance. 
•    E: Loss of vision in one or both Eyes.
•    F: One side of the Face is drooping.
•    A: Feeling of weakness or numbness in one of the Arms.
•    S:  Slurring in Speech. Is the patient unable to speak or understand others?
•    Time to call the emergency services and try to get emergency care at the earliest

The Importance of Immediate Medical Attention

Prompt medical attention is critical when a stroke is suspected. Every minute counts, as early intervention can help minimize brain damage. If you or someone around you exhibits any of the signs mentioned above, do not hesitate to call for medical assistance. Here are some additional tips:

•    Call 108 or Emergency Services: In India, dialing 108 will connect you to emergency services, including an ambulance. Provide as much information as possible about the person's condition and location.
•    Do Not Wait: Do not wait to see if the symptoms improve. Even if the symptoms seem to disappear, they can return or worsen. Immediate action is essential.
•    Note the Time: If you're the one responding to a potential stroke, take note of the time when the symptoms first appeared. This information can help medical professionals determine the most appropriate treatment.
•    Do Not Drive: Do not attempt to transport the person to the hospital on your own. Ambulance personnel are trained to provide vital initial care, and it's safer for the individual to receive treatment en route.

Additionally, stroke patients have a much greater chance of surviving and avoiding long-term brain damage if they arrive at a stroke-ready center and receive treatment within a "golden period" of 4.5 hours. Timely treatment in this golden period can reduce and reverse the damage to brain cells and it can prevent long-term disability and morbidity. A stroke-ready center is a hospital with 24/7 rapid diagnostic procedures like CT scans, MRI facilities, and a dedicated stroke response team, equipped to provide emergency stroke care. Some awareness initiatives like Stroke of Support can also help you locate your nearby stroke care center.

(Dr Vineet Suri, Senior Consultant Neurologist & Academic Advisor, Department of Neurosciences, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi)

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