DEAR DR. DONOHUE: While having dinner with my father, he suddenly had a blank look and stopped eating. He couldn’t speak clearly. My brothers and I got him onto a couch, and he stayed there for about 15 minutes. Finally, someone suggested he might be having a stroke, and we called 911.
In the emergency room, the doctor had a CT scan done and then gave him a clot-busting drug. It worked unbelievably. He regained his speech and could move. Is this common? I thought strokes came from bleeding in the brain. What’s going on? — T.M.
ANSWER: Strokes come in two varieties. The lesscommon kind is bleeding from a broken brain artery, often one that has an innate weakness in its wall. That’s an aneurysm. It has an explosive onset and produces a “worst headache ever.” This is a hemorrhagic stroke, accounting for 15 percent of strokes.
The more-common kind of stroke is an ischemic (is-KEY-mick) stroke, one that results from a blockage of blood flow through an artery serving the brain. It’s similar to what happens in a heart attack when a heart artery is plugged up. Your dad had this kind of stroke. The CT scan your dad had is one way of differentiating a hemorrhagic stroke from an ischemic one.
Signs of both kinds of stroke are a sudden inability to speak, an inability to understand the spoken word, loss of sensations from parts of the body, weakness of a leg or arm and vision changes.
Deprived of blood, brain cells and tissues die fairly quickly. As in your father’s case, clot-dissolving drugs can establish circulation to the brain area deprived of blood. If such treatment is given within three to four hours from the onset of symptoms, people can make a complete or nearcomplete recovery of function.
The booklet on strokes provides information on this common and often tragic malady. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 902W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 with the recipient’s printed name and address.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My son is 33. During his last visit, he happened to mention that he had floaters in his eyes, and they drove him crazy. He didn’t go into detail about this, but I would like to know about floaters and their implications. I never had them. — L.H.
ANSWER: Floaters are dark, small spots that dart across a person’s field of vision when the person moves his eyes. They’re deposits of debris in the vitreous, a gellike substance that fills the entire back two-thirds of the eye. Nearsighted people are prone to developing them. I bet your son is nearsighted.
There is no treatment for floaters. People learn to deal with them.
A sudden onset of a large number of floaters indicates that the retina is tearing away from its attachment to the back of the eye. Detachment of the vitreous can do the same. If such an event takes place, an immediate examination by an ophthalmologist is mandatory.
©2013 North America Synd.