Q: What is a stroke?
A: There are two types of strokes; the first type, called an ischemic stroke, occurs when blood stops flowing to a part of the brain due to a blocked blood vessel. The other type, from a ruptured blood vessel, is called hemorrhagic stroke.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: Stroke symptoms begin suddenly. You may have one or more of these symptoms: weakness or loss of feeling on one side of your face, arm or leg; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; difficulty talking; slurred speech; or problems understanding others.
You may have a sudden severe headache. Some people can have dizziness or loss of balance. To help remember this, some people use the acronym FAST:
F=Face: Ask the person to smile, does one side of the face droop?
A=Arm: Ask the person to raise both arms, does one arm drift downward?
S=Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase, is their speech slurred or strange?
T=Time: Call 911.
Q: What are the risk factors?
A: The No. 1 risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. There are other risk factors including: high cholesterol levels, irregular heart beat called atrial fibrillation, previous heart attack, diabetes and smoking.
As we get older, our risks for stroke and heart disease increase. Additionally, if you are overweight and sedentary, your risk goes up.
Q: How is a stroke diagnosed?
A: If you think you are having a stroke, the best option is to get to a Stroke Center by EMS. On the way to the hospital, the EMS providers begin treatment and call ahead, allowing a stroke team to be available to rapidly help with stroke emergencies.
The first test that is done to figure out what type of stroke you may be having is a CAT scan of the brain.
This can quickly identify if the stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic.
Q: How is a stroke treated? What is important to know about treatment options?
A: One of the most important things to know about stroke treatment is that you need to get treatment started quickly.
For the ischemic stroke, there is an intravenous clot busting medication called tPA that can restore blood flow but needs to be given within three hours from the start of symptoms.
Newer endovascular treatments allow specialized physicians at comprehensive stroke centers, like Lehigh Valley Health Network, to extend that time window out as far as eight hours and still reverse the stroke process.
Yevgeniy Isayev, M.D., is a neurologist and director of Lehigh Valley Health Network's Stroke Center.