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Watch out for that stroke

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Small strokes can cause big damage, so don’t ignore signs such as memory loss, says Dr Anil Venkatachalam

A stroke can be devastating. The cells in the part of the brain that is starved of its blood supply may die. Depending on the location of the stroke, if a large number of brain cells die, the person may lose the ability to speak, move, and remember.

A type of stroke termed silent stroke is harder to spot; it creates areas of damage in the brain where the area of the dead brain cells are smaller than with a traditional stroke, but they can still have a significant and lasting impact on memory.

During a silent stroke, the interruption of blood flow is to a small part of the brain that does not control any key function; so at times, the person may not know they have had a stroke.

Silent strokes can cause subtle effects that may not be noticed immediately. For instance, a silent stroke could obstruct the flow of information in the brain needed for memory, especially if several of these strokes occur over time (which is the most common scenario).

The symptoms or signs that a silent stroke is occurring include

Loss of a person’s balance, leading to more falls; temporary lack of coordinated muscle movement

Loss of bladder control, causing urine leakage

Changes in mood and personality.

People found to have small areas of dead tissue from a lack of blood supply (called infarcts) in the brain can have difficulties with memory and mental processes (cognition).

Over time, the damage from several such silent strokes can accumulate, leading to more and more memory problems.

If a stroke comes without any symptoms and it can only be seen on an MRI or CT scan, what, if anything, can you do about it?

If you or your loved one is experiencing signs of memory loss, do not dismiss it as a normal part of ageing, or as stress. See your doctor for testing. It is also important to let your doctor know if you have a family history of memory loss and stroke.

A team of specialists including neurologists, physiotherapist and occupational therapists can determine the type and severity of your stroke and the possible causes of your stroke. They can also recommend interventions (medication, surgery, exercises, and lifestyle changes) to help with your recovery and to prevent further strokes from happening.

Dr. Anil Venkatachalam is Consultant Neurologist at K J Somaiya Hospital, Super Specialty Centre 

Short Takes

During a silent stroke, the interruption of blood flow is to a small part of the brain that does not control any key function; so at times, the person may not know they have had a stroke.

A silent stroke could obstruct the flow of information in the brain needed for memory, especially if several of these strokes occur over time (which is the most common scenario).

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