Sir Alex Ferguson is believed to have suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage, which can be confused for a stroke and causes similar speech loss and paralysis.
Often caused by smoking and uncontrolled high blood pressure, it kills about one in five people immediately.
Another third are left so disabled that they need permanent 24-hour care.
However, between a third and a half of people make a full recovery, returning to a normal quality of life in just a few months.
Ranjeev Bhangoo, a consultant neurosurgeon at King’s College Hospital in London, said: ‘The prognosis all depends on what Sir Alex was like before the bleed happened.’
He added: ‘If he had only a headache and a reasonably good level of consciousness, with no weakness in his arms or legs, the prognosis is reasonably good.
‘If he had greatly diminished consciousness and severe weakness, then the chances of making a good recovery are a lot less.’
The haemorrhage is a bleed between the skull and surface of the brain, which usually starts with a sudden ‘thunderclap’ headache so painful that many people lose consciousness.
WHAT IS A SUBARACHNOID HAEMORRHAGE?
A subarachnoid haemorrhage is an uncommon type of stroke caused by bleeding on the surface of the brain. It’s a very serious condition and can be fatal.
Subarachnoid haemorrhages account for around 1 in every 20 strokes in the UK.
There are usually no warning signs, but a subarachnoid haemorrhage sometimes happens during physical effort or straining, such as coughing, going to the toilet or lifting something heavy.
- A sudden agonising headache – which is often described as being similar to a sudden hit on the head, resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
- A stiff neck
- Feeling and being sick
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Blurred or double vision
- Stroke-like symptoms – such as slurred speech and weakness on one side of the body
- Loss of consciousness or convulsions (uncontrollable shaking)
Treatment: A person with a suspected subarachnoid haemorrhage needs a CT scan in hospital to check for signs of bleeding around the brain.
If a diagnosis of subarachnoid haemorrhage is confirmed or strongly suspected, you’re likely to be transferred to a specialist neurosciences unit.
Medication will usually be given to help prevent short-term complications, and a procedure to repair the source of the bleeding may be carried out.
Medical information via the NHS official website
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