What is a stroke?
A stroke happens when there is some disruption or a blockage to the flow of blood to the brain, or leakage of blood into the brain. This means that blood cannot reach a particular part of the brain, which then becomes damaged.
There are two main types of stroke:
- Cerebral infarction – blockage of a blood vessel in the brain, this could be caused by a blood clot or fatty clot
- Cerebral haemorrhage – rupture of a blood vessel in the brain
What are the causes of stroke?
There are many causes and risk factors for stroke that include:
- High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
- Eating a diet high in saturated fat
- Using too much salt in food
- Being overweight and not taking enough exercise
- Heart disease
- Family history
There are some factors which we cannot do much about, however there are steps we can take which will reduce the risk of having a stroke or a further stroke. These include:
- taking regular exercise,
- lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- stopping smoking
- reducing alcohol intake
- eating a healthy and balanced diet
- keeping our weight at a reasonable level.
Effects of stroke
Stroke affects everybody in different ways. The effect of a stroke on a person depends on which part of the brain has been affected and how much damage has been caused. Some of the effects of stroke can include:
- Weakness down one side of the body. This can create difficulties walking, getting in and out of bed, getting washed and dressed etc.
- Difficulties with speech and swallowing
- Inability to think things through clearly, and memory problems
- Problems with sight and awareness of objects around you
- Changes with bladder and bowel function
- Emotional changes
- Sudden tiredness
Stroke patients may experience one or all of the above.
About the Brain
The brain has two hemispheres (sides). The nerve signals (messages) cross over at the base of the brain, so a stroke occurring on the right side of the brain will affect the left side of the body and vice versa.
The Left Hemisphere (side)
The main functions of the left hemisphere are:
- Movement of the right side of the body
A stroke occurring in the left hemisphere could affect someone’s ability to speak, write and move the right side of the body.
The Right Hemisphere (side)
The main functions of the right hemisphere are:
- Recognition of objects
- Finding your way around places
- Recognition of people
- Awareness of your own body
- Putting on clothes
- Sensation on the left side of the body
- Movement on the left side of the body
This information is intended only as a brief guide to understanding stroke. Hopefully you will find it helpful. However, the brain is an extremely complex structure, and stroke and its effects can be far reaching and complicated. Your stroke will be examined and assessed in detail by all members of the hospital team. Don’t be afraid to ask them to discuss it with you.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
This is a blood clot usually in the lower calf which occurs due to poor circulation and reduced mobility following a stroke. The signs of a DVT are pain, redness, tightness and swelling in the leg. The lower leg often feels hot to touch. If you notice any of these signs seek medical advice immediately. You will be required to wear special elasticated stockings in the early stages of your stroke to help prevent clots forming in your leg.
If you are given elasticated stockings (commonly known as TEDS) when you have left hospital, it is important that you wear them during long periods of inactivity. If you are not mobile at night please wear your stockings in bed.
The Different Types of Stroke
TACS (Total anterior circulation stroke)
- Marked weakness (dense hemiparesis)
- Some loss of sight (Visual Field Loss)
- Severe speech difficulties, sometimes no speech
- If affected area of the brain is on right then neglect will occur on the left
PACS (Partial anterior circulation stroke)
- One or two of the above symptoms, but not all
LACS (Lacunar Stroke)
- Physical weakness (Pure motor hemiparesis)
- Impaired sensory function (Pure sensory hemiparesis)
- Physical weakness and impaired sensory function (Sensory-motor hemiparesis
- Co-ordination problems (Ataxic hemiparesis)
- BUT speech normal, vision normal, and no neglect POCS (Posterior Circulation Stroke)
- Loss of consciousness
- Unsteady gait
- Facial Problems
- Visual Disturbance
- Difficulty Speaking
- BUT good comprehension (dysarthria)