How to Treat Strokes: First Aid Treatment

Our brain cells require a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to function effectively. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. This interruption in blood supply causes brain cells to die and can result in permanent brain damage. Stroke victims require emergency medical treatment to restore blood flow to the damaged brain tissue. There are two types of stroke; let's take a look at these in more detail.

The most common type of stroke is caused by a blood clot in the blood vessels supplying the brain. The blood clot blocks the vessel, leading to the brain cells being starved of oxygen and nutrients, eventually causing cell death. This is known as an ischemic stroke.

The second type of stroke is caused by a bleed into the brain from a ruptured blood vessel, leading to brain swelling and cell death. This type of stroke is known as a hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes are much less common than ischemic strokes and are more common in people who take blood-thinning medication.

Medical Terminology

The medical term for a stroke is cerebrovascular event (CVE) or cerebrovascular accident (CVA). The medical term hemorrhagic refers to bleeding.

The treatment for an ischemic stroke is similar to the treatment for a heart attack. The affected blood vessel needs to be unblocked to restore blood flow to the damaged brain tissue. The faster this happens, the more likely the brain cells are to recover and the less likely there will be permanent brain damage. Victims need to have the blood flow restored within three hours to save vital brain tissue and have the best chance of making a good recovery. Therefore, you must not delay in calling EMS if you suspect a victim is having a stroke.

Strokes are now also known as brain attacks, which emphasizes the importance of calling for help early, as you do when you are dealing with a suspected heart attack.

Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

◾ Facial droop on one side

◾ Loss of power down one side of the body

◾ Slurred speech

◾ Sudden loss of vision

◾ Dizziness

◾ Reduced level of consciousness

◾ Seizures

The most common symptoms of a stroke can be remembered by using the acronym FAST.

◾ Face: Is there any facial droop?

◾ Arms: Can the victim raise both arms?

◾ Speech: Is there any slurred speech?

◾ Time: Time to call EMS if any one of these symptoms is present.

First Aid Treatment for a Stroke

If you suspect a victim may be having a stroke, you should:

1. Immediately call EMS.

2. Place the victim in a comfortable position.

3. Record the time of onset of the symptoms and inform EMS.

4. Provide reassurance and monitor vital signs until emergency medical help arrives.

5. Do not give the victim anything to eat or drink, as there is a risk of choking.

Never administer aspirin to a stroke victim. There is no way in first aid to distinguish between a stroke caused by a bleed (hemorrhagic) or one caused by a clot (ischemic). Administering aspirin will worsen a stroke caused by a bleeding blood vessel.

Watch Out for Mini-Strokes

A mini-stroke occurs when the symptoms of a stroke resolve within twenty-four hours with no medical treatment. The medical term for this is transient ischemic attack (TIA). A mini-stroke often occurs before a major stroke, so a TIA should be treated as a serious warning sign. You cannot distinguish a mini-stroke from a regular stroke; therefore, always call EMS if a victim shows any of the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Do not wait to see if the symptoms resolve on their own before seeking medical assistance.

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