One in five people will have a stroke at some time in their life. Most are over 65, but stroke can strike at any age. Even young people and children can be affected.
A stroke could happen to you, a friend or family member. If it does, the more you know about stroke the better you will be able to deal with the consequences.
Until recently many people, including doctors, believed little or nothing could be done following a stroke.
We now know strokes are very treatable and, if the right actions are taken quickly, the patient may not have any long term effects.
Therefore, recognising the symptoms and accessing treatment immediately can be crucial after a stroke. Knowledge of what a stroke can do to a person can also help to minimise its impact.
This section explains what a stroke is, what causes stroke, and how it can affect people’s lives.
A stroke is a brain attack.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel, which is carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain, bursts or is blocked by a clot. This causes an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain. This can damage or destroy brain cells which will affect body functions.
For example, if a stroke damages the part of the brain that controls limb movement, a person’s ability to move an arm or leg may be affected. A stroke can also affect mental processes such as how people feel, think, communicate, or learn.
The term ‘stroke’ comes from the fact that it usually happens without warning, ‘striking’ the person from out of the blue. The effects of a stroke on the body are immediate.
A TIA stands for transient ischaemic attack. It is also known as a mini-stroke and happens when the brain’s blood supply is briefly interrupted, usually for a few minutes.
A mini-stroke may cause a brief loss of vision, loss of speech, or weakness in one side of the body. People will usually recover within a few minutes and won’t have any obvious disability.
TIAs are caused by small clots. A large clot causes a stroke. A mini-stroke is a warning that there is a risk of more TIAs, or a full blown stroke.
Every stroke is different. Every person affected by stroke will have different problems and different needs. The way in which you might be affected depends on where in the brain the stroke happens and how big the stroke is.
A stroke on the right side of the brain generally causes problems on the left side of the body. A stroke on the left side of the brain causes problems on the right side of the body. Some strokes happen at the base of the brain and can cause problems with eating, breathing and moving. The right half of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa. For example, weakness or paralysis in the left arm may result from a stroke in the right side of the brain. For most people, the left side of the brain controls language (talking, reading, writing, and understanding). The right side controls perceptual skills (making sense of what you see, hear and touch) and spatial skills (judging size, speed, distance and position).
After a stroke, you might have problems doing some of the things you did before, such as: