Don’t Wait When Signs of a Stroke Appear

I think it was Mark Twain who said, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

Denial of stroke symptoms could mean the difference between function and paralysis, between speaking normally and struggling to get a word out, and possibly between life and death.

There are two basic kinds of strokes. One comes from a blood clot that clogs an artery going to the brain. That is treatable. The other comes from a burst blood vessel in the brain. You can’t tell the difference without a CT scan and the quicker the CT scan is taken, the better.

If you have a clot, there is a lot that can be done to dissolve the clot before it damages the brain permanently. But the clot needs to be dissolved quickly. Otherwise the blood supply to that part of the brain stops and if that part isn’t getting blood, those brain cells will die.

So here’s the message: If you suspect a stroke, don’t wait. Don’t say that it will get better. Don’t say that you only need a little time. Don’t say it’s just a minor thing.

So what are the symptoms of stroke?

If you suddenly have difficulty walking, you stumble, your gait changes, that could be a stroke.

If you have difficulty talking, slurring your speech, can’t get words out, you could be having a stroke.

If you have paralysis or weakness on one side of the body, including numbness, that’s a sign of a stroke. Same holds true if one side of your mouth droops.

If you have trouble seeing in one or both eyes, that’s a sign of a stroke.

And if you have a sudden severe headache, that could be a sign of a stroke.

I emphasize that these are immediate changes, changes so significant that you didn’t have them the day before. And just because they might temporarily go away is no reason conclude that you’re not having a stroke. Those symptoms can come and go.

A stroke center will immediately do those tests necessary to determine if you’re having a stroke. All of our major hospitals have stroke centers. The window for successful treatment after a stroke can close as soon as three hours following the stroke. So there isn’t much time. There certainly isn’t time for denial, because if you wait, you simply don’t have nearly as good a chance to recover.

Can other problems mimic strokes?

Yes, they can, but the only way to know it is to have the problem diagnosed quickly. If you have sudden symptoms, call 911 and get to one of those hospitals quickly. Quick action may preserve your health and even save your life.

Lee N. Sheldon, DMD