Because of how quickly a stroke can cause brain damage — literally within minutes — getting to a hospital as soon as possible can make all the difference when it comes to survival and recovery.
EmpowHER describes a stroke as a brain injury. It occurs when the brain's blood supply is interrupted. Without oxygen and nutrients from blood, brain tissue dies quickly, in less than 10 minutes. This causes a sudden loss of function.
The Stroke Association advises that if a person is exhibiting certain signs, they need immediate help.
They call it FAST:
F - Face Drooping
A - Arm Weakness
S - Speech Difficulty
T - Time to Call 911
If these symptoms occur, medical help is imperative. The Stroke Association also says to look for :
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, arm or face
- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
So what happens to the brain in the first 24 hours of a stroke? The patient needs to be rushed to the ER where doctors can evaluate the kind of stroke a patient has had.
Caring.com describes the two kinds of strokes well:
“Strokes are categorized as either ischemic or hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes (also called white strokes) occur when a blood vessel to the brain is blocked, preventing blood from flowing to part of the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes (also called red strokes) are caused by a broken or torn blood vessel bleeding into or around the brain.”
Treatment will subsequently depend on the kind of stroke. The right drugs will be used to help contain damage, and the sooner they are administered the better, for long-term recovery.
Physical therapy (rehab) can also start within 24 hours of stroke. This may seem really fast but again, the sooner rehab starts, the better.
If a person can start this while taking the necessary drugs, they have more of a chance at recovery. Rehab will include speech therapy as well as learning how to walk again, how to swallow properly, and how to use motor skills properly.
The ultimate goal is for the patient to become independent again. Because of this, family involvement is also very important. Family members can learn how to help with fine motor skills and how to assist the patient once he/she gets home.
Stroke victims will essentially need to re-train both their bodies and brains.
Psychological help may also be needed. A stroke can change a person’s life completely and even permanently.
This can cause depression and therapy can help. Family and friends should be on the lookout for signs that a stroke victim may be becoming depressed.
If possible, 911 should be called and an ambulance sent out. Ambulances can travel fast and personnel can start treating the patient straight away. Additionally, the ER will be waiting and prepared to start treatment.
Because brain tissue dies so quickly, treatment within the first 10-20 minutes can decide not only the quality of survival, but survival itself. Even if treatment isn’t immediate, it needs to be as soon as possible.
If you suspect a loved one has just had a stroke (or you are having one and are able to call for help) don’t wait — call 911 straight away. Every minute counts, when it comes to a stroke.
Stroke Definition & Overview
The Stroke Association. Warning Signs. Web. Retrieved May 18th 2015.
Care After Stroke. What to Expect for the First 24 Hours After a Stroke. Web. Retrieved May 18th 2015.
Reviewed May 19, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith