Some medical events can be life-altering – heart attacks, serious infections, broken bones, and ripped muscles can change a person’s day-to-day in a matter of seconds. Another life-altering medical event that may occur during the course of a lifetime is experiencing a stroke. Having a stroke can have both short and long-term effects that can be debilitating, including paralysis, slurred speech, memory issues, and light bladder leaks.
What is a Stroke?
We’ve all probably known or heard of someone who has suffered from a stroke, but what is a stroke to begin with? There are technically three kinds of stroke, but all involve the sudden interruption of blood supply in the brain. According to the Internet Stroke Center, the three kinds of stroke include:
Ischemic Stroke – The most common type of stroke, accounting for almost 80 percent of all strokes, is caused by a clot or other blockage within an artery leading to the brain.
Intracerebral Hemorrhage – An intracerebral hemorrhage is a type of stroke caused by the sudden rupture of an artery within the brain. Blood is then released into the brain compressing brain structures.
Subarachnoid Hemorrhage – A subarachnoid hemorrhage is also a type of stroke caused by the sudden rupture of an artery. A subarachnoid hemorrhage differs from an intracerebral hemorrhage in that the location of the rupture leads to blood filling the space surrounding the brain rather than inside of it.
When blood and nutrients are cut off from the brain, cells begin to die within minutes, making prompt treatment vital. How can you tell if you or someone else is having a stroke? The Mayo Clinic explains the symptoms of someone experiencing a stroke include:
Trouble speaking and understanding what others are saying – You may experience confusion, slur your words or have difficulty understanding speech.
Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg – You may develop sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg. This often affects just one side of your body. Try to raise both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke. Also, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.
Problems seeing in one or both eyes -You may suddenly have blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, or you may see double.
Headache – A sudden, severe headache, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness, may indicate that you’re having a stroke.
Trouble walking -You may stumble or lose your balance. You may also have sudden dizziness or a loss of coordination.
If you are noticing these symptoms in yourself or someone else, call 911 immediately. Treatment for an Ischemic stroke may consist of using a clot-dissolving medicine called tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), or in some cases, a procedure may be done to restore blood flow by using a catheter to remove the clot. In the case of Hemorrhagic stroke, “treatment focuses on controlling bleeding, reducing pressure in the brain, and stabilizing vital signs, especially blood pressure.”
Post-treatment, stroke patients may experience a variety of problems both physical and mental. According to UPMC, in the days and months after a stroke, problems such as these may develop (though, with time and rehabilitation, they may improve):
- Weakness, paralysis, and problems with balance or coordination.
- Pain, numbness, or burning and tingling sensations.
- Fatigue, which may continue after you return home.
- Inattention to one side of the body, also known as neglect; in extreme cases, you may not be aware of your arm or leg.
- Speech problems or difficulty understanding speech, reading, or writing.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Memory problems, poor attention span, or difficulty solving problems.
- Visual problems.
- Depression, anxiety, or mood swings with emotional outbursts.
Where Urinary Incontinence Comes In
Another common problem that those who have experienced a stroke may develop is some sort of urinary incontinence, wherein light bladder leaks occur involuntarily. In the case of incontinence and stroke patients, a change in communication, vision, and/or changes in mobility or muscle movement may be contributing factors. There are several types of urinary incontinence that one may experience, oftentimes in conjunction with another type or more. These include frequent urination, Urge Incontinence, Nocturia, Functional Incontinence, Overflow Incontinence, and Stress Incontinence.
The American Stroke Association suggests the following if you or a loved one has suffered from a stroke and are experiencing symptoms of incontinence:
Change your diet: Some foods and liquids may affect bladder and bowel incontinence. For example, many people have a greater need to urinate after drinking coffee or alcohol. Spicy foods may affect your bladder as well.
Monitor your intake: Changing the timing, amounts and types of liquids can help control urinary incontinence. For example, limiting the amount you drink before bedtime may help.
Select the right clothing: Wear clothing that’s easy to take on and off.
Modify your home: Make sure your bathroom is easily accessible.
In addition, practicing pelvic floor exercises, practicing voidance control, and prescription medications may be able to help in the long term. There are also products such as incontinence pads and liners that are meant to absorb urine leaks for a short amount of time. For those women seeking all-day leak protection from Stress Incontinence, reusable devices like Revive® are also available over-the-counter in retailers nationwide.