What is CVA? A CVA is the old-fashioned medical name for a stroke and it stands for Cerebral Vascular Accident. Vascular refers to blood flow and “accident” is probably a reference to the interruption or leakage of the blood supply to the brain, which is the main feature of a stroke.
What is CVA and what causes it?
A cerebral vascular accident can be caused by many things. Generally speaking, our risk of having a stroke increases as we age, but the main risk factors for strokes include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and old age. Having a previous stroke also makes it more likely that you will have another one.
There are four different types of stroke. Some strokes are caused by a blockage in one of the arteries that feeds the brain—this is known as a thrombosis. An embolism elsewhere in the body can also cause an obstruction in the blood supply to the brain, which will lead to a stroke. Blockages or a build up of cranial pressure within the brain or brain cavity can cause a stroke, and lastly, a sudden dramatic fall in blood pressure because of blood loss or shock can also cause a stroke.
How serious is a CVA?
A CVA, or stroke, is always a serious medical emergency, and even a very minor stroke can kill if left untreated. Small strokes, otherwise known as “mini strokes” are often the precursor to a much larger stroke, so any person who experiences the symptoms of a stroke should seek medical assistance immediately.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of a stroke can be very sudden, but early recognition of what is happening can make the difference between early treatment and a good recovery, and permanent disability and even death.
The early signs of a CVA include partial paralysis of one side of the face, numbness down one side, and abnormal speech. Other symptoms of a stroke include altered sense of smell, taste, hearing or sight, sudden and very severe headache, and problems with coordination and balance, mental confusion, difficulties swallowing, and drooping eyelids or mouth on one side, although symptoms will vary depending on which part of the brain is affected. When the stroke is serious, the person may lose consciousness. Unfortunately, in such instances, the chances of that person making a good recovery are slim.
How can I be certain it is a CVA?
If you are not sure of your loved one is having a stroke, there are some simple checks you can perform before calling for medical assistance. These checks can be remembered using the acronym: FAST
F – facial weakness: are there any signs of drooping or paralysis down one side of the face?
A – ask the person to raise both arms in the air: if one arm drifts down, it could be due to weakness down one side of the body caused by a stroke
S – sudden speech problems are a classic symptom of a stroke
T – test all three symptoms and if any are present, call for help immediately