Being mindful of symptoms

LEWISTOWN–Dr. Maya Lichtenstein, neurologist at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital, said that there are a myriad of potential symptoms that could be signs of a stroke. “Any sudden changes,” said Lichtenstein, “go the E.R.”

A stroke, according to Liechtenstein, is either the result of not enough blood flow to the brain, plaque in the blood vessels or heart, each resulting in a clot, or a hemorragic bleed, resulting in a bursted blood vessel in the brain. Classic symptoms of a stroke include numbness, tingling, weakness on one side of the body and changes in speech, but other sudden changes in in understanding language, vision, vertigo or clumsiness can also be symptomatic.

“It depends on what part of the brain is damaged,” said Lichtenstein.

Treatment options for a stroke vary, depending on the type of stroke.

“If you get seen fast enough,” said Lichtenstein, for a clot, a “clot-busting medication, a form of blood thinner” can be administered via I.V. A thrombectomy, a procedure, not an operation, said Lichtenstein, is another treatment option, similar to a cardiac catheterization. A bleeding stroke often leads to lowering the patient’s blood pressure and surgically relieving pressure on the brain. Taking aspirin can also treat a stroke.

Post-stroke, Liechtenstein said that rehabilitation is important, including physical, occupational, speech, and cognitive therapies. “Aggressive therapy can continue to improve people’s symptoms,” said Lichtenstein. “Everyone thinks they’re better if they can move their arms and legs.” Lichtenstein also encourages stroke patients to be aware of their mood and possible depression, encouraging them to accept all the help available.

To avoid a stroke, Liechtenstein said patients should see their doctors regularly for preventive care and that leading a healthy lifestyle is the key, including regular exercise to keep up the heart rate and eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Lichtenstein also encourages patients to keep control of their vascular issues, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as to quit smoking, if they smoke.

According to WebMD, “a team of stroke researchers has devised a one-minute test that can be used by ordinary people to diagnose stroke.” If someone appears to be having a stroke, ask that person to smile, close their eyes and raise their arms, and say “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” WebMD notes, “The ‘smile test’ is used to check for one-sided facial weakness, stroke patients usually cannot raise both arms to the same height, (and repeating) a simple sentence (checks) for slurring of speech.”

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