Stroke- knowing the signs of this medical emergency

Stroke- knowing the signs of this medical emergency

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Knowing the signs of a stroke & acting fast can save lives

what is a stroke?
risk factors
what to do

With stroke, fast action can save lives. When people know the signs of a stroke, and get rapid medical attention for themselves or someone else, it can limit the permanent damage a stroke can potentially cause, and may even save a life.

What is a stroke?

  • A stroke is when the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off.
  • When a clot blocks a blood vessel in the heart, it’s called a heart attack- so some people refer to a stroke as a “brain attack”.
  • The most common cause is a blockage in a blood vessel, usually due to a blood clot.
  • The area of brain tissue supplied by that blood vessel can no longer get oxygen and other vital nutrients, and starts to die.
  • This means that the part of the body controlled by that region of the brain will lose its function.
  • If the blockage is not removed quickly, the damage can be permanent.
  • A clot-busting drug can be used in an Emergency Department to clear the blockage, but it only works if given within a short timeframe- that’s why it’s so important to get immediate medical attention if someone shows signs of a stroke.


What are the risk factors for stroke?

Anyone can get a stroke, but there are some factors that mean your risk is higher, including:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • Diabetes (particularly if poorly controlled)
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • High cholesterol
  • High alcohol intake
What conditions can be treated by our online doctors?

What are the key signs & symptoms of a stroke?

The “FAST test” is a handy way of remembering  the signs of a stroke and what to do:

F is for Face: is there drooping or weakness of one side of the mouth?

A is for Arm: can both arms be lifted? In a stroke, there may be weakness of one side (weakness may involve a leg on the same side too)

S is for Speech: is speech affected? can the person understand and be understood?

T is for Time: time is crucial. If you or someone else develops any of the above symptoms of a stroke, call 000 and ask for an ambulance.

Other symptoms of a stroke:

While the FAST test is a good guide, there are other possible signs of a stroke, these include:

  • Severe headache
  • Vomiting
  • New onset of dizziness, balance problems or falling.
  • Confusion and difficulty understanding others
  • A sudden disturbance of vision
  • Difficulty swallowing

What is a TIA or “mini stroke”?

  • A TIA (transient ischaemic attack, also known as a “mini stroke”) is when a blockage happens in a blood vessel in the brain, but does not last- the blockage clears by itself before any permanent damage occurs.
  • It can cause the symptoms of a stroke and should be taken just as seriously.
  • If someone has had a TIA, it may mean they are at a high risk of stroke- they need urgent medical assessment.

What to do

  • If you think you or someone else has symptoms of a stroke, seek immediate medical attention, dial 000 and request an ambulance.
  • Time is of the essence- a clot busting drug can save brain function and may even save a life, if given in time

For more information on stroke, go to the Stroke Foundation website or speak to your GP.

what are the symptoms of a stroke
what conditions can our doctors treat online?

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About the Author:

Aifric Boylan
Dr Aifric Boylan is an experienced GP based in Melbourne. She completed medical school at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and undertook specialist training as a General Practitioner. She has 10 years experience working in General Practice and currently works as a full time family doctor in Melbourne, with a special interest in women’s health and paediatrics. She is a medical writer, covering common health issues in General Practice, as well as publications and opinion pieces in the medical press.

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