What is a cerebrovascular accident?
A cerebrovascular accident is the medical term for the common term ‘stroke’. A cerebrovascular accident occurs when blood flowing to a particular part of the brain is halted by a blood vessel rupturing, or by some blockage. This starves the brain of oxygen and as a result, brain cells die.
What causes a cerebrovascular accident?
Strokes can be caused in different ways, the commonest being when a blood vessel becomes blocked by a blood clot, preventing oxygen from getting to a part of the brain. Clots can travel up to the brain from other parts of the body, or form in a blood vessel in the brain.
Strokes can also happen when blood vessels rupture in the brain (meaning they haemorrhage), or in the membrane which surrounds the brain. This stops blood from getting to the brain as it normally would.
What are the symptoms of a stroke?
The most common symptoms of stroke can be identified and remembered using the acronym FAST, which stands for:
- Face: is one side of the face drooping?
- Arm: is one arm weak, and does it drift downward if the person raises their arms?
- Speech: is their speech slurred, or does it sound abnormal?
- Time: make sure to call 999 and go to A&E if these symptoms present
Other stroke symptoms include:
- Difficulty when walking
- Blurred vision
- A headache which comes on suddenly and is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting
- Problems speaking coherently or difficulty understanding others
- Imbalance, loss of co-ordination
- Paralysis or numbness, usually on one side of the body, in the face, arm, or leg
Symptoms usually come on suddenly and while they may not be severe at first, they get worse over time, so it is important to recognise symptoms of stroke to ensure it is treated as soon as is possible.
What is the treatment for a cerebrovascular accident?
Depending on the type of stroke, treatment differs, and it also differs depending on the area of the brain affected. Strokes are often treated with medication which attempts to dissolve the blood clot and prevent further clotting. Medication can also reduce blood pressure, and certain drugs can lower the pressure in the brain which is caused by the bleeding.
Sometimes surgery is recommended when bleeding is particularly severe. This will remove the excess blood, and in other cases it may be used to repair the rupture.
Can a stroke be prevented?
You can reduce your risk of developing a stroke by trying to keep as healthy as possible. Some conditions also increase the risk of developing a stroke, so it is important to manage medical conditions properly and as recommended. You can help prevent strokes by:
- Drinking in moderation
- Eating healthy
- Exercising regularly
- Not smoking