Silent strokes: Symptoms and treatment

Dr Kaustubh Mahajan, a Neurologist, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim, shares the symptoms and treatment for silent strokes

Image source: Google
Image source: Google

A stroke, as per recent data, is the leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death, especially, amongst the elderly in India. A stroke is an obstruction of blood supply to the brain due to a blocked blood vessel or a ruptured blood vessel.

Sometimes, strokes can occur without the person even realising it or remain asymptomatic this is also known as silent strokes.

The prevalence of a stroke has increased by over 50% in the past two decades in India. The contribution of this disease to total deaths and disease burden in the country has almost doubled in the past 25 years.

The risk of a stroke is the same for men and women until the age of 50, post which, women are at higher risk of suffering a stroke.

Silent strokes have the potential to cause permanent damage to the Brain; strokes may be overlooked as its symptoms are hard to recognise. It is noted that individuals, over the age of 60, and those with High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, high Cholesterol and those on oral contraceptives, are at high risk of experiencing a silent stroke.

Here are some early signs of stroke that should not be ignored:

  • Unexplained severe headaches
  • Numbness or weakness in the arms, face, or leg, usually on just one side
  • Difficulty seeing with one or both Eyes
  • Difficulty in staying or walking in a coordinated or balanced manner
  • Drooping on one side of the face
  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Confusion or loss of memory
  • Loss of sensation in any part of the body
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Behavioural changes

Transient Ischaemic Attacks (TIAs) are mini strokes that occur just before a stroke; they are also called ‘Warning strokes’ and carry a significant risk for the patient.

Most patients who have TIAs are highly prone to getting a major stroke if not treated immediately.

A stroke can be diagnosed through physical examination, medical tests, MRI, echocardiography or angiography. Depending on the diagnosis of the patient’s condition, a doctor prescribes a treatment plan.

Treatment

The patient can be started on regular medication, depending on the location, cause, type and severity of the stroke/attack

In case the patient requires surgery, a Carotid Endarterectomy for people with a narrow carotid artery in the neck, can help in clearing the artery of any fatty deposits before another stroke

Additionally, a carotid angioplasty or stenting is also an alternative treatment option, which might help to prevent a stroke

Prevention

Due to the gradual rise in stroke risks, it is essential to create awareness of the fact that stroke is treatable and preventable. It is easy to cut down on the risk of a stroke by making a few lifestyle changes

  • Eating a healthy diet: Avoid high cholesterol foods and consume sufficient amounts of vegetables.
  • Regular exercise: Ideally 30 minutes daily.
  • Weight management is of utmost importance.
  • Avoid intake of alcohol and smoking, it can help prevent a stroke.
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control.