What is apoplexy?
Apoplexy, also known as stroke, is a condition which occurs as a result of blood clots or hemorrhages in the brain. Each year, roughly 152,000 people in the UK have a stroke and around one fourth of these cases is fatal within a year. The average age for experiencing a stroke is 65+.
What are the symptoms of apoplexy?
It is very characteristic for apoplexy that the symptoms occur suddenly over the course of seconds. The symptoms vary depending on where the apoplexy occurs in the brain, because different brain functions are related to different parts of the brain.
The following symptoms can be seen during a stroke:
- One-sided paralysis of the face and/or body
- Trouble speaking or understanding
- Trouble seeing
- Brief loss of consciousness
- Trouble controlling the body
If you exhibit any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance immediately.
What are the causes of apoplexy?
In most cases, apoplexy is caused by blood clots in the brain. In more rare cases, it is caused by a bleed. When the blood supply to the brain is affected by a blood clot blocking the blood supply, or when a bleed pushes down on certain areas of the brain, a loss of body functions might be the result. This is because the blood circulation in the brain is compromised and this leads to a loss of brain cells in the affected area. The brain cells die because they are very sensitive to a lack of oxygen and nutrients. As a result, a person will often suffer permanent injuries after an apoplexy.
A person is more prone to apoplexy if he or she suffers from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes type 1 and 2, alcoholism or hardening of the arteries. In addition, smoking, an unhealthy diet or physical inactivity are risk factors. Genetics are thought to play a part as well, as you are more prone to apoplexy if you have a personal or family history of apoplexy.
What are the treatments of apoplexy?
The diagnosis is established at hospital, where a neurological examination and a CT scan are made to evaluate the severity of the damage. Ideally, the acute treatment should be received within 4.5 hours. In case of a blood clot, therapy with clot-busting medicine is given. To prevent new clots from occurring, antiplatelet medications like aspirin are given. A haemorrhage in the brain is more difficult to treat, and in severe cases surgery is needed.
Life after an apoplexy can be challenging. Fatigue and brain damage can occur and abilities like speaking, walking or cooking can be affected. An apoplexy can also be followed by concern, anxiety and uncertainty.
A lot of the risk factors can be avoided through lifestyle changes in the form of regular exercise, less alcohol, smoking cessation, and a healthy diet. These healthy lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of having an apoplexy significantly.