10 questions you need to ask your doctor if you have suffered a stroke
The answers are based on general principles. You should get specific answers from your doctor who knows your clinical condition in detail.
1. What kind of stroke do I have?
There are two main types of stroke. The more common, called ischaemic stroke, is caused by the blockage of a blood vessel supplying the brain. Less common is the haemorrhagic stroke, which is usually due to the bursting of a blood vessel in the brain.
2. What are the symptoms a stroke patient may have?
The symptoms depend on the location of the stroke, and vary between individuals. They commonly include weakness and/or numbness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or swallowing, drooping of the face, giddiness and lack of coordination.
3. Can I recover from my stroke?
The prognosis following stroke depends on the type and location of the stroke as well as on many patient factors. In general, 10 per cent of patients recover almost completely, 25 per cent will have minor impairments, 40 per cent will have moderate impairments requiring some assistance, 10 per cent will have severe impairments and will be completely dependent, and 15 per cent will die from the stroke, or shortly after.
4. When does stroke recovery start and end?
Stroke recovery is very variable. Some individuals improve in the first few minutes after a stroke but this is usually not the case. For most individuals, recovery is slow and happens gradually over a period of months. Improvements can be seen up to one year after the stroke onset.
5. What acute treatments can be considered?
The care of stroke patients in a specialised stroke unit with trained personnel has been shown to improve outcomes.
For ischaemic stroke patients who come to the hospital early, a clot-busting treatment may be considered within 4.5 hours from onset. Medications to reduce the stickiness of blood (anti-platelets) have also been shown to be beneficial in the acute phase.
For haemorrhagic stroke, surgery may be indicated in some situations. Control of blood pressure is also important.
6. What are my risk factors for stroke?
You should ask your doctor regarding your specific risk factors.
In general, high blood pressure is the most common and important modifiable risk factor for stroke. Other modifiable risk factors include smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, certain blood and heart conditions, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Older age and a family history of vascular disease are non-modifiable risk factors.
7. Am I at risk of having another stroke?
Once you have had a stroke, you are at risk of having another one. The risk depends on various factors. In general, the risk of another stroke is 3 per cent in the first month, 10 per cent in the first year and 25 per cent in the first five years. Medications and a healthy lifestyle can reduce this risk.
8. How can I reduce my risk of another stroke?
Your individualised treatment plan will be discussed by your doctor. In general, the following steps will reduce your risk of another stroke:
- Take your medications as prescribed and don't miss your medical appointments.
- Control the risk factors of stroke such as high blood pressure.
- Stop smoking if you are a smoker.
- Have a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
9. Why do I need to do rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation has been proven to improve the likelihood of recovery in many stroke patients. It aims to help stroke patients improve their level of functioning and cope with physical activities.
10. What support services are available?
The Singapore National Stroke Association offers support for stroke survivors and their caregivers. The Association can be contacted via telephone (63584138) or email (email@example.com).