A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries essential nutrients and oxygen is prevented by clogging or rupture in the brain. As a result the brain cells die and the functions controlled by that particular area gets affected. The movement, speech and vision are generally affected and it is important that the person be given treatment immediately. Stroke can cause brain damage and thereby result in permanent disability or even death. As such, no sooner that symptoms are noticed, keeping a record of the timing of the first sign will help doctors in properly diagnosing the stroke and the extent of brain damage and effects on the person. Also the drugs given within the first three hours of the first symptom can prevent further brain damage. Even if the symptoms are not seen in a while, it is vital that this is brought to the notice of your doctor, as sometimes strokes are preceded by ‘mini-strokes’ or a ‘warning-stroke’ known as Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). The symptoms of a TIA is having warning signs for a very short period of time only and return to normalcy after a while. As such, if this is not properly diagnosed it could have devastating results.
It is important that you understand the problem and the situation you are in firstly. Taking your medical reports and files will help the doctors to ascertain your medical history and speed up the medication and recovery process. Keeping the doctor informed of any medical condition you are in and the drugs that you are on to is important, and if there are cases of stroke in the family will be vital information required. The symptoms of stroke will be looked at for initial diagnosis.
Secondly the doctor will have a complete physical examination done to ascertain the physical strength, coordination, sensation and reflexes. In addition, the speech will be tested and with the results obtained whether it is a stroke or not, and the extent of which it has affected the person will be diagnosed. Depending on these results the patient will be directed to specialist in this field and medical attention and tests will be carried out to ascertain and prevent further damage to the brain.
Basic laboratory tests to ascertain cholesterol level, diabetes and blood pressure should be done periodically. Further blood should be tested for high level of amino acid homocysteine, as a high level of this substance can lead to stroke.
Tests such as CT Scan (computed axial tomography) and/or MRI Scan (magnetic resonance imaging) will be carried out to view the brain, and this will help diagnose a ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke or other problems concerning the brain. CT Scan is usually the first test done, it also can determine the location and size of the damaged area in the brain.
Magnetic Resonance Angiography is another technique used to detect changes in the main tissues. Other tests used to diagnose stroke are Transcranial Doppler to assess the blood flow in the vessels and Ultrasound Scan can be used to detect blocks in blood vessels. An Electrocardiogram (ECG) is done as most people suffering with ischemic stroke also have coronary artery disease, and there is a lack of blood flow in the heart during a stroke.
With proper diagnosis the damage to the brain is minimised and chances of restoration to normalcy are increased.