Do you know you're having a stroke?

November 25, 2008

A Mayo Clinic study shows a majority of stroke patients don't think they're having a stroke -- and as a result -- delay seeking treatment until their condition worsens. The findings appear in the current issue of Emergency Medicine Journal at emj.bmj.com/>.

Researchers studied 400 patients who were diagnosed at Mayo Clinic's emergency department with either acute ischemic stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a temporary interruption of blood flow to part of the brain.

Less than half of the patients -- 42 percent -- thought they were having a stroke. In fact, most in the study did not go to the emergency room when symptoms appeared. The median time from onset of symptoms to arrival at the hospital was over three and a half hours. Most said they thought the symptoms would simply go away. The delay in seeking medical help was the same among men and women.

When asked how they knew about stroke symptoms, nearly one-fifth said they thought a stroke always came on gradually. Just over half (51.9 percent) said they thought that seeking medical care immediately was important.

Significance of the findings

"Time is crucial in treating stroke," says Latha Stead, M.D., emergency medicine specialist and lead author of the study. "Each individual's medical background differs and affects recovery, but in general the sooner a patient experiencing a stroke reaches emergency care, the more likely the stroke can be limited and the condition managed to prevent further damage and improve recovery." The researchers say their findings clearly indicate that better public understanding of stroke symptoms will lead to a faster response and better outcomes.

What you should know

Strokes can happen quickly or can occur over several hours, with the condition continually worsening. The thrombus or clot that is causing the stroke can frequently be dissolved or disintegrated so blood can again flow to the brain. In such cases, immediate treatment can mean the difference between a slight injury and a major disability. Interestingly only 20.8 percent of the participants knew about such treatment. By use of stents, medications and other technology, physicians can stop a stroke from spreading and greatly limit damage. Stroke symptoms include:

-- Sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis of your face, arm or leg -- usually on one side of the body
-- Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding speech (aphasia)
-- Sudden blurred, double or decreased vision
-- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination
-- A sudden, severe "bolt out of the blue" headache or an unusual headache, which may be accompanied by a stiff neck, facial pain, pain between your eyes, vomiting or altered consciousness
-- Confusion or problems with memory, spatial orientation or perception

In such cases, a stroke gives no warning. But one possible sign of an impending stroke is a TIA. The signs and symptoms of TIA are the same as for a stroke, but they last for a shorter period -- several minutes to a few hours -- and then disappear, without leaving apparent permanent effects. You may have more than one TIA, and the signs and symptoms may be similar or different. A TIA indicates a serious risk that a full-blown stroke may follow.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Explore further: Mini-strokes can be 'ominous prelude' to catastrophic strokes

Related Stories

Mini-strokes can be 'ominous prelude' to catastrophic strokes

October 31, 2017
Each year, more than 200,000 Americans experience mini-strokes called transient ischemic attacks (TIAs).

Data, technology drive new approaches to Parkinson's care

October 23, 2017
Complex, multi-system diseases like Parkinson's have long posed challenges to both scientists and physicians. University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) researchers are now reaching for new tools, such as algorithms, ...

Uptick in US stroke deaths sets off alarms: CDC

September 7, 2017
(HealthDay)—Progress in preventing stroke deaths in the United States has stalled after 40 years of decline, and may even be reversing, government health officials say.

Study highlights 10 most unnecessary and overused medical tests and treatments

October 5, 2017
Unnecessary medication. Tests that don't reveal the problem, or uncover a "problem" that isn't really there. Procedures that have more risk than benefit. A new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of ...

Flooded Texas faces higher risk of disease, experts warn

August 28, 2017
Sewage-laden floodwaters dumped on Texas by Hurricane Harvey bring a higher risk of disease, such as bacterial infections and mosquito-borne illnesses, and the fallout may linger for years, experts warn.

Rapid response to kids' stroke symptoms may speed diagnosis

July 2, 2015
An emergency room rapid response plan for children can help diagnose stroke symptoms quickly, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Recommended for you

Anti-malaria drug shows promise as Zika virus treatment

November 17, 2017
A new collaborative study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) and UC San Diego School of Medicine has found that a medication used to prevent and treat malaria may also be effective ...

Scientists identify biomarkers that indicate likelihood of survival in infected patients

November 17, 2017
Scientists have identified a set of biomarkers that indicate which patients infected with the Ebola virus are most at risk of dying from the disease.

Study raises possibility of naturally acquired immunity against Zika virus

November 16, 2017
Birth defects in babies born infected with Zika virus remain a major health concern. Now, scientists suggest the possibility that some women in high-risk Zika regions may already be protected and not know it.

Research team unlocks secrets of Ebola

November 16, 2017
In a comprehensive and complex molecular study of blood samples from Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, published today (Nov. 16, 2017) in Cell Host and Microbe, a scientific team led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison has ...

A structural clue to attacking malaria's 'Achilles heel'

November 16, 2017
Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and PATH's Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) have shed light on how the human immune system recognizes the malaria parasite though investigation of antibodies generated ...

Molecular pathway offers treatment targets for pulmonary fibrosis, related conditions

November 15, 2017
A study led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto has identified a molecular pathway that appears to be critical to the development of fibrosis - scarring ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.