Cerebral apoplexy (stroke) is the sudden interruption of blood supply to a specific area of the brain. Depending on the area of the brain that is affected, a stroke can lead, for example, to paralysis, speech problems or visual impairment. It is an absolute medical emergency if these symptoms appear suddenly.
- Paralysis on one side of the body, arm or leg paralysis, often accompanied by sensory disturbances
- Facial paralysis
- Speech problems (the patient can no longer pronounce words correctly or can’t speak at all, the ability to understand words can also be lost)
- Vision impairment, blindness
- Nausea, vomiting
- Headache, disorientation
- Unsteady gait
Many of the symptoms can improve after a while with therapy. Full recovery, however, is only possible for mild strokes. Some symptoms (paralysis, speech problems, etc.) often persist. If the damage is very serious, a stroke can also lead to death.
Causes and treatment
- Obstruction of a blood vessel (mostly by a blood clot)
- Bleeding in the brain (brain haemorrhage)
The lack of blood supply means that the brain tissue no longer receives enough oxygen and dies.
- High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for a stroke
- Arterial calcification (i.e. build-up of calcium in the arteries)
- Diabetes mellitus
- High blood fat levels
- Lack of exercise
- Advancing age
- Heart diseases (heart arrhythmia, in particular atrial fibrillation)
Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital
- CT scan (computed tomography)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Ultrasound of carotid arteries
- Medication to dissolve the blood clot (“thrombolysis”)
- Arterial catheterisation: Very thin tubes are inserted into a vein in the groin and guided to the blocked artery in the skull where the blood clot is removed or dissolved
- Operation (mechanical removal of blood clot)
- Rehabilitation and physiotherapy after a stroke
When to see a doctor?
- On suspicion of a stroke, the doctor or emergency services must be called immediately (emergency number 144). In particular for:
- Sudden paralysis
- Sudden speech problems
The time frame for successfully restoring blood flow is only three to four-and-a-half hours (“time equals brain cells”).