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There are many online support groups for stroke survivors. Online groups offer a great support network and allow patients to remain anonymous if desired. Two of the larger online groups include:
National Stroke Association: The National Stroke Association provides stroke support groups, a search function to search for support groups in your area, a discussion guide, a resource directory, information on clinical trials, and more. This site also offers information regarding medical professionals, EMS and other pre-hospital providers, stroke survivors, and kids and stroke. Some information is available in Spanish.
The Stroke Network provides readers with information on strokes, including medical information and information for caregivers. This site also hosts a forum. Recent forum topics include returning to school, sensitive subjects, tiny strokes, doctors, helping out and finding out, questions about education about a specific type of stroke, walking pain, short term memory, acceptance and giving up, and hearing loss. Stroke patients can read about others' ways of coping and share and help other stroke patients in a forum setting.
Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States—over 4 million Americans are currently living with the effects of stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, 25 percent of stroke patients recover with minor impairments and only 15 percent die shortly after the stroke. The percentage of survival after the second stroke is only 14 percent. Rehabilitation in the form of medication, exercise, and change of lifestyle is vitally important for people who have suffered from a stroke.
Only 10 percent of stroke patients completely recover after the first stroke. Recovery depends on the amount of damage done to the brain, the skill of the rehabilitation team, and the timing of the rehabilitation. The earlier rehabilitation begins, the more likely it is that survivors will regain lost abilities and skills. Cooperation of family and friends is also pertinent in stroke rehabilitation and recovery.
Stroke rehabilitation does not stop when the patient feels better. Once a person has had a stroke, he or she must make the change of lifestyle for the rest of his or her life in order to prevent a possible second stroke.
The disabilities caused by stroke can be mild or severe. The recovery process involves rehabilitation, including physical and occupational therapy. A physical therapist helps the stroke patient strengthen weakened muscles and teaches the patient to walk again, if needed. An occupational therapist teaches a recovering stroke patient how to cope with living with a disability.
Occupational therapists may work with a patient to teach him or her how to eat again, how to dress, and how to manage other daily living activities. The stroke recovery patient may not have forgotten how to do these things, but may have to learn how to do them in a different way because of weakness in the upper or lower extremities or in his or her dominant side caused by the stroke.
Recovery may also include a change of diet, blood pressure medication, cholesterol medication, and diabetic medication. Once a person has had a stroke, the risk of another stroke is high, so definite lifestyle changes must be made. The patient should also have his or her heart function checked on a regular basis.
There are some drugs that can help with stroke treatment by reestablishing blood flow to the brain. Thrombolytics are drugs that help to reestablish blood flow by dissolving the blood clots. In order for thrombolytic therapy to be effective, it must be given as soon as possible. A name brand for a “clot-buster” drug is Activase®.
Activase® was approved for marketing in June of 1996. It contains an enzyme that is normally found in the body. This enzyme converts plasminogen into another enzyme to break down blood clots. This drug can be injected into the patient. Patients that receive Activase® within three hours of the beginning of the stroke are 33 percent more likely to recover from their stroke.
In 2004, the FDA started to allow doctors to use Medical's Merci®. This medication is good when it is too late for Activase® to be effective (after about three hours, Activase® loses it effectiveness). Merci® removes blood clots in the larger blood vessels and restores blood flow to the brain.
Interrupted blood supply to the brain (ischemic) or a ruptured blood vessel in the brain (hemorrhagic) is the cause of stroke. When a blood vessel ruptures, the blood spills and surrounds brain cells, depriving them of oxygen. Once deprived of oxygen, the brain cells die. Some of the symptoms of stroke include:
Sudden numbness or weakness, particularly on one side of the body
Trouble speaking or understanding speech
Vision problems in one or both eyes
Dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
Sudden severe headache with no known cause
The treatment for stroke is in stages: stroke prevention, therapy right after the stroke, and rehabilitation. Therapy can prevent a first or recurrent stroke. Treatment is based on each individual's risk factors, including hypertension, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Rehabilitation helps the patient overcome the disabilities caused by the stroke. Drugs are also often used to treat stroke; anticoagulants are common stroke-prevention drugs. Aspirin is often used to try to prevent stroke, as it thins the blood.