A stroke is a condition in which part of the brain is affected by an interruption to the normal blood supply. This can result from a clot in a blood vessel that stops blood passing through to brain tissue. If this condition is recognised at an early stage and hospital care is readily available, drug treatment is able to dissolve the clot, resulting in a full recovery.

Sometimes a stroke is caused by a burst blood vessel when the internal bleeding in the skull causes pressure on brain tissue. At first, the patient may have a severe headache, but it can lead to paralysis down one side of the body and even the loss of the ability to speak.

Occasionally a person may have a minor stroke in which there is weakness down one side of the
body and/or loss of speech for a few minutes only. This is called a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) and is usually followed by a full recovery. Other attacks may happen later and a major stroke may occur at any time.

Causes of stroke
Causes of stroke

Symptoms and signs – Not all may be present

  • tingling, weakness or numbness down one side of the body
  • loss of muscle tone of the face muscles, with dribbling from one side
  • blurred or double vision
  • nausea
  • loss of bladder or bowel control
  • loss of speech or the uttering of meaningless
  • sounds
  • loss of balance and coordination
  • deteriorating conscious state or unconsciousness
  • headache

How you can help

1.      Assess the patient’s level of consciousness

  • If unconscious and breathing normally, or if not fully alert, place the patient on their side in a supported position.

Call 111 for an ambulance.

It is important for the patient to be assessed as soon as possible because treatment must be started within 1 to 2 hours if a clot is present in the brain.

2.      Care for a conscious patient

  • Assist a conscious patient into the position of greatest comfort
  • Cover the patient to reduce heat loss.

3.      Observe the patient 

  • While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, observe the patient closely for any change in condition.
  • If there is any deterioration in the patient’s conscious state, turn the patient on their side in a supported position.

Although the experience of suffering a stroke is very frightening for the patient, if prompt medical treatment is given followed by rehabilitation therapy over a period of time, improvement is achievable for many.


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