This month is World Stroke Month, a time to shed a greater light on this often misunderstood condition, its symptoms and, unfortunately, its misdiagnosis. When a person is misdiagnosed or receives a delayed diagnosis, there can be serious consequences. Left untreated, a stroke can case paralysis and, in the most serious cases, death.
By knowing more about this condition, you are better prepared to help not only yourself, but to advocate for those you love. Read on to learn more about strokes, its warning signs and its treatments.
A stroke is an attack on the brain. No one is immune from a stroke, as it occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off in some way. When the brain does not receive the blood that it should, it does not receive oxygen. When the brain does not receive oxygen, cells die and the area of the brain that is negatively affected can cause problems with other areas of the body.
Each stroke patient is different. When someone, for example, sustains only a small stroke, there may be minimal damage to the brain and minor problems as a result. A person who has had a small stroke may find that an arm or leg is weaker than the other, but only temporarily. A person who has a larger stroke may lose function in one or more parts of their body, or even be killed by it.
There are approximately 800,000 people each year who experience a stroke. It may be an initial episode or a recurrent one. There is a stroke in the United States every 40 seconds, and a stroke proves fatal every four minutes. It is thought that up to 80 percent of strokes that occur could have been prevented.
There are common symptoms of stroke, but they may present differently depending on the area of the brain that is affected. No matter where the stroke is located, all symptoms related to the nerves. Symptoms may include numbness or weakness, tingling or vision changes. Some people may experience difficulty speaking, balance problems and confusion.
While any person at any age can suffer with a stroke, there are risk factors that all should be aware of. Those with high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and people who smoke are at a greater risk for having a stroke. The older a person is, the higher the likelihood that they will have a stroke. When a patient is under the age of 50, the most common cause of stroke is the use of illegal narcotics.
There are two types of stroke: Ischemic and hemorrhagic.
An ischemic stroke occurs when an artery in the brain is blocked or obstructed in some way. The blockage may be caused by a buildup of cholesterol or by a clot that has traveled from a blood vessel or directly from the heart. The most common cause of a blood clot that leads to a stroke is atrial fibrillation.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a bleed vessel leaks. The leak causes blood to spill into the brain, most typically due to high blood pressure. The result of the bleeding is a hematoma that damages the brain cells in the area.
The longer a stroke remains undiagnosed and untreated, the poorer the prognosis. Once a person arrives at the hospital, the medical staff will take a medical history and perform an examination. Doctors must take a history to help determine how long the stroke has been occurring. There is a 3 to 4 1/2 hour window to treat a stroke with clot-busting drugs. Once this window has closed, doctors must look at other options for treatment.
Once it is suspected that a person is having or has had a stroke, a CT scan may be ordered. This is not a diagnostic tool, but one that will help doctors plan for treatment. In other instances, depending upon availability, doctors may order an MRI. Other testing may be ordered and images and results used to put together a treatment plan for the patient.
After initial treatment, the person may be admitted to the hospital or referred to a rehabilitation center. The patient will be treated not only for the stroke, but for the issues that are caused by the stroke. While recovery from stroke is possible, it is estimated that approximately two-thirds of stroke patients will suffer with some type of lasting health issue.
Strokes are a serious incident that must be treated rapidly. The acronym FAST is an important one to remember:
If you or a loved one has been misdiagnosed after having a stroke, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and more. Call our team of medical malpractice attorneys in West Palm Beach for assistance. We will review the details of your case at no cost to you and advise you of your legal options.