How Much Do We Really Know About Strokes and How to Recognize Them?

In the U.S. about 700,000 people a year have strokes. 500,000 are first time strokes and 200,000 are recurrent strokes. About 61% of stroke deaths are women. Strokes are the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart attacks and all forms of cancer combined. Unfortunately, some of those stroke victims are our clients in claims against drug manufacturers who put profit over safety. Vioxx and Bextra are just two of the recalled defective drugs which caused strokes in ordinary people who were simply trying to ease their suffering from chronic arthritic pain. These clients are participants in nationwide settlements with Merck and Pfizer after having their lives irreparably damaged by the devastating effects of the strokes they suffered.

A stroke or cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is a rapidly developing loss of brain function due to a disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to hemorrhage, thrombosis or ischemia. A transient ischemic attack or TIA (commonly called a mini-stroke) is a short-lived episode usually of 24 hours or less causing temporary impairment. Whether an individual is experiencing a stroke or TIA, it should be considered an emergency situation requiring immediate medical treatment.

Stroke symptoms include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; or sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.

How can you tell if a person is having a stroke? Three commands known as the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale (CPSS) can assess the situation quickly. Command the potential stroke victim to (1) Smile- does one side of the mouth sag? (2) Raise both arms- does one arm droop lower than the other? and (3) Speak a simple sentence-are the words slurred? Can the sentence be repeated? If they have trouble with any of these simple commands, call 911 immediately. Time is of the essence when it comes to treating a stroke to limit permanent brain damage. The clot-busting drug TPA (tissue plasminogen activator) and other treatment concepts can reduce stroke severity only if administered swiftly following the onset of the stroke. Urgency is key to successful treatment.

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