Living With My Condition In Fife

Stroke

What is a stroke?

Stroke happens when there is an interruption of the blood flow to the brain by either:

  • a blocked blood vessel (ischaemic stroke); or
  • a burst blood vessel causing a bleed (haemorrhage) into the brain.

As a result, brain cells do not get the oxygen and essential nutrients, which they need to function normally. Some brain cells become damaged and others die.

Every stroke is different.  The symptoms depend on the area of the brain affected and the extent of the damage.  It is not always possible to know what caused a stroke.   

The difference between a Transient Ischaemic Attack (some people call this a mini-stroke) and stroke is that these symptoms will recover completely within 24 hours.  Some symptoms may only last a few minutes or hours. Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) is a clear warning of an increased risk of a stroke and requires urgent medical attention. 

 

Recognising a Stroke or Transient Ischaemic Attack

Recognising stroke or TIA is very important and an easy way to do this is to become familiar with the FAST test.

Think FAST and save a life

  • FACE – Can they smile? Does one side droop?
  • ARM - Can they lift both arms is one weak?
  • SPEECH – Is their speech slurred or muddled?
  • TIME – to call 999

 

Symptoms

How a stroke affects you depends on where about in the brain has been affected.  The most common symptoms are a sudden onset of: 

  • weakness or numbness down one side.  This can affect the face and/or arm and/or leg
  • loss of balance;
  • problems with speech either in slurring of words or being unable to find the right words;
  • loss of vision on one eye;
  • loss of part of the vision in both eyes.

Stroke is treated as a medical emergency and you should seek help immediately.

 

Treatment

Stroke services in many areas are able to offer clot busting treatment if appropriate and this has to be given within 4 hours of the stroke.

You may need to be admitted to hospital for further investigations and treatment or seen quickly at an outpatient clinic by a stroke specialist.

If you are admitted to the hospital you should be cared for in the stroke unit where the multidisciplinary team can assess and plan your rehabilitation. Some tests you may have include:

  • CT Scan (Computed Tomography) – this can show the kind of stroke you have had and the extent of damage it may have caused.  For example, if it is due to a blocked or burst blood vessel.
  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) which measures the electrical activity of the heart
  • Doppler Ultrasound which is a scan of the blood vessels in the neck that supply the brain with blood.

The time someone is in hospital and the extent of the recovery that is made is dependant on a number of things.

The team in the hospital can include lots of different people including Doctors, Nurses, Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists, Dieticians, and Occupational Therapists.   There are services available in the community after discharge including rehabilitation teams, day hospital services and the voluntary sector such as CHSS (Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland)

NHS Fife offers support after discharge through the Fife Rehabilitation Service for under 65 years and the CHSS nurse service. 

 

Prevention

Prevention of further strokes will depend on the type of stroke you have had. Most commonly medication is used to thin the blood (if you have had a blockage type stroke), treat the fat levels in the blood, keep the blood pressure under control and if you have diabetes make sure the sugar control is good.

Things to do for yourself are:

  • If you smoke – STOP. Ask your GP for advice and help;
  • Make sure you eat a good diet including 5 portions of fruit and vegetables in a day;
  • Eat less fat, salt and sugar in your diet;
  • Watch you don’t drink too much alcohol;
  • Watch your weight – and waistline;
  • Increase the amount of exercise you take.
     

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