In Thailand, stroke is the third leading cause of death after cancer and heart disease. Approximately 250,000 new cases of strokes are recorded in Thailand each year, about 50,000 patients lose their lives while around 30% of patients become paralyzed. Stroke is more common in the elderly population. But younger people and children can have strokes too.
There are two types of stroke:
- Ischemic stroke is the most common and accounts for 80% of all stroke cases. This type can occur when blood clots or other particles block the blood vessels to the brain. Fatty deposits called plaque can also cause blockages and restrict blook flow to the brain by building up in the blood vessels.
- Hemorrhagic Stroke accounts for about 20 percent of stroke cases. The most common causes are high blood pressure and brain aneurysms. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts inside the brain. Left untreated, the bleeding will damage the surrounding brain tissue and quickly result in death.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) has symptoms similar to a stroke. But the symptoms will return to normal within 24 hours with no abnormalities found on brain x-rays.
Strokes can be fatal. Death can usually be prevented if patients are aware of the symptoms that precede an attack and how to deal with it. The symptoms of stroke are summarized by the acronym “FAST”:
- Face: Facial drooping. Is the face drooping down on one side as the person smiles?
- Arm: Arm weakness. Is the person able to raise both arms to the same height?
- Speech: Speech difficulties. Is the speech slurred? Are you able to understand what the person is saying?
- Time: Time is critical. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any unusual symptoms.
Other stroke symptoms include:
- Sudden walking
- Blurred vision
- Severe headache
If you experience any of these stroke symptoms, seek immediate medical attention at the hospital to be diagnosed with a blood test and brain x-ray. The sooner treatment can begin, the more chance you will have to fully recover and reduce the risks of temporary or permanent paralysis and death.
If the patient reaches the Stroke Ward at Bangkok Hospital Chiang Mai within four and a half hours, doctors can begin treatment with intravenous thrombolytic therapy to restore blood flow to the affected area of the brain. Anticoagulants such as heparin or warfarin, slow down your body’s process of making clots. Antiplatelet drugs, such as aspirin, prevent blood cells called platelets from clumping together to form a clot. Long term treatment includes rehabilitation and physical therapy, speech therapy and monitoring of risk factors such as smoking, diet and exercise.
Risk factors for stroke or blockage include:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiac arrhythmias
To prevent the chances of a stroke from occurring, have an annual health check to screen for risk factors, exercise regularly and eat low fat and high fiber foods.
Dr. Dolporn Yuwasilp, Neurologist
Bangkok Hospital Chiang Mai