Residents in Dumbarton and the Vale are being reminded of the main signs of a stroke and to act ‘FAST’ if they suspect someone is having one.

Getting medical help as quickly as possible can massively improve a person’s recovery and could be the difference between life and death.

A specialist thrombolysis service at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley provides a type of medical procedure which dissolves stroke-causing blood clots and restores blood flow to the brain.

The procedure, however, must be carried out within the first few hours of symptoms starting and any delay can potentially result in a substantial loss of brain tissue and functional abilities.

Julie McManus, a consultant physician who treats stroke patients at the RAH, said: “If you suspect a stroke, it is vital that you or the person you are concerned about get to hospital as quickly as possible.

“Acting quickly could greatly improve their outcome and recovery and could even save their life.

“The main signs of a stroke can be easily remembered as the ‘FAST’ test (outlined at the end of this article), and if you recognise any of these symptoms you must dial 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance."

(Image: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde)

The thrombolysis service at the RAH is there for residents of Renfrewshire and the Vale of Leven area including Dumbarton, Alexandria, Bonhill and Balloch.

It can be accessed from 9am to 5pm, with stroke patients transferred to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital outside of these hours.

It is used for the treatment of ischaemic strokes (those caused by blood clots) which account for approximately 85% of all cases.

The therapeutic window for thrombolysis is usually up to four and a half hours after symptoms have started, so it is crucial that people act urgently and call 999 as soon as they notice symptoms.

Studies have shown that for every 15-minute delay in administering thrombolysis, there is a corresponding loss of approximately one month of healthy life, primarily due to increased time for rehabilitation.

“At the RAH, delivery of our thrombolysis treatment within the first few hours of symptoms starting can ensure blood flow to the brain is restored quickly, reducing the risk of disability and other lasting effects in stroke survivors,” added Julie.

The FAST test

Symptoms in the FAST test identify most strokes.

Occasionally a stroke can cause different symptoms which might include problems with balance and coordination, a sudden and very severe headache and a loss of feeling in one side of the body.

However, there can be other causes for these symptoms.

The main symptoms can be easily remembered using FAST, which covers the following - Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech problems, Time to call 999.

• Face – Has the person’s face fallen on one side? Has their eye or mouth drooped, and are they able to smile?

• Arms – Can they raise both arms and keep them there?

• Speech – Is their speech slurred or garbled? The person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake and they may have problems understanding what you're saying to them.

• Time – It's time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.