Strokes strike fast and, unfortunately, often. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in America today, and one of the leading causes of disability. People over 55 years old have more chance of stroke, and the risk gets greater as you get older.
How does stroke happen? A stroke happens when a blood vessel bringing blood and oxygen to the brain gets blocked (ischemic stroke) or ruptures (hemorrhagic stroke). When this happens, brain cells don’t get oxygen thy need. As a result, that part of the brain can’t work, and neither can the part of the body it controls. Damage may be temporary or permanent depending on how many cells are lost.
Warning Signs During a Stroke
Sometimes symptoms of stroke develop gradually. But if you are having a stroke, you are more likely to have one or more sudden warning signs:
- Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Trouble walking or staying balanced or coordinated
- Severe headache with no known cause
TIA, or transient ischemic attack, is a warning stroke that can happen before a major stroke. They happen when a blood clot clogs an artery for a short time. The signs of a TIA are like a stroke, but they usually last only a few minutes. About 15 percent of major strokes are preceded by TIAs, so if be sure to seek medical help right away if you have any of the warning signs.
Certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of a stroke, such as:
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Heart disease
What to Do if You Suspect a Stroke
Every second counts when it comes to caring for someone who has had a stroke. A stroke is a medical emergency, and if you or someone else has any warning signs, you should call 9-1-1 immediately. Be sure to take note of the time when the first signs occurred. If treated within three hours, medications can reduce the risk of long-term disability.
Vascular Surgery to Avoid Stroke
Vascular surgery is an option for managing diseases of the carotid artery, which is the neck vessel that provides blood to the brain. Blockage in this vessel can result in strokes if left untreated. Carotid artery disease can be managed by medication, placement of a stent, or with open surgery to clear the blockage through a small neck incision. The vascular surgeon decides on the appropriate management of patients with carotid artery blockage depending on the degree of narrowing and the patient’s symptoms and risk factors.
About Yazan Duwayri, MD
Yazan Duwayri, MD is an Assistant Professor of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapies at Emory University School of Medicine. He is an Emory Healthcare Network Physician at Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown. He serves as the vascular surgery quality officer at Emory University. He received his vascular surgery and endovascular training at Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis, Missouri. He specializes in the minimally invasive treatment of vascular disorders including carotid artery disease, aortic aneurysms, and peripheral arterial disease.