Date
21 January 2018
Losing strength in arms or legs is one of the signs of stroke. Photo: Reuters
Losing strength in arms or legs is one of the signs of stroke. Photo: Reuters

What you should know about strokes

A stroke can cause serious disabilities, so we should pay attention to our body to see if there is any symptom.

Although losing strength in arms or legs is one of the signs of stroke, what degree of the fatigue is considered a symptom? If you do not know, you may become afraid of your own shadow.

Recently, a retired senior teacher came to me for a medical examination. She worried that she might have symptoms of a stroke as her hands sometimes lose strength and she felt pain on her forehead and temples.

A stroke refers to a sudden occlusion or rupture of blood vessels, causing interruption of blood supply to part of your brain, depriving brain tissue of oxygen. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die.

The blood vessels involved in stroke are usually distributed in either the left or right brain, so the patient will most likely have paralysis or weakness on one side of the body.

If it is a hemorrhagic stroke, the situation will be very serious and the patient needs to be admitted to hospital. If a patient reports feeling fatigue on both sides of the body but at the same time is able to go to a clinic, the chance of it being a stroke is very low.

Blood vessels are very fragile. Even if the patient has a temporary stroke, the blood vessels can at most withstand two or three short-term occlusions. It is impossible to have numerous brief occlusions in blood vessels and then miraculously heal.

Coming to my patient, her symptoms were not of stroke, but her look of sadness and anxiety gave me some clues. The signs are just a result of her body reacting to stress.

It turned out that her first grandchild was born two months ago. She was very excited at the age of seventy to embrace such news. However, at the same time she felt stressed that she would have to help in taking care of her grandchild.

The lady had graduated from the University of Hong Kong in the late 1960s. She is definitely an elite. Her career was amazing and after retirement, she still keeps learning and enhancing herself.

With her education and upbringing, she ought not be troubled by a “trivial matter”, but we can understand her situation because we are all just human.

When we encounter major life events, such as bereavement, unemployment, etc., we will inevitably be at a loss. Having a newborn in the family is amazing, but it made her be on her guard.

As one of her relatives had a stroke recently, she couldn’t help but interpret her stress and unease as a sign of stoke. After reassurance from me, she finally felt relieved.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 4

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/BN/RC

 

registered neurologist, FHKAM (Medicine)

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