Research suggests that if you experience a minor stroke or ignore symptoms of a mini-stroke, you are at serious risk of a full stroke in the next few days. Seeing a doctor right after you experience these symptoms reduces disability and the chances of dying from a soon-after major stroke. However, many people still don’t recognize the early warning signs of a stroke, or the symptoms right after they have a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called mini stroke.
TIA (transient ischemic attack)/mini-stroke
When blood flow to the brain is temporarily interrupted by a blockage in an artery supplying blood to the brain, it’s called a TIA or mini-stroke. This is typically what happens in a full stroke, except in the case of a TIA or mini-stroke,circulation is usually restored within 24 hours. In a major stroke, the block or bleed persists and cause significant impairment that may not be reversible. A person also has a significant risk of dying during or after a major stroke.
It’s crucial to recognize the symptoms of a TIA or mini-stroke:
- Sudden weakness, tingling, or numbness that affects one side of the body (usually)
- Double vision/temporary blindness/pain in one eye
- Difficulty speaking
- Dizziness, loss of balance, loss of coordination
Early recognition and treatment averts disaster
Once you have a mini-stroke, it is crucial to get to a doctor (preferably an emergency room) and begin medication so that you reduce the chances of experiencing a full prolonged stroke, which can lead to permanent disability or death. In the UK, the acronym used to help raise awareness of the symptoms of a stroke and need to act immediately is FAST, which stands for: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech slurring, and Time – the need to act quickly. In the U.S., the National Stroke Association uses Act FAST, so that if you are with someone and suspect that they are having a stroke, you can:
Face – Ask the person to smile to see if one side of the face droops
Arms – Ask the person to try and raise both arms to see if one arm drifts downward
Speech – Ask the person to repeat a single phrase to see if their speech is slurred
Time – Call 9-1-1 immediately if you observe any of those symptoms
Study identifies symptoms preceded full-blown stroke
The researchers in the study surveyed 150 patients who came to their hospital in 2014 with a diagnosis of mini-stroke. Based on a patient survey, the researchers noted that nearly 99 percent of the patients had some symptoms that suggested compromised blood flow and an impending event like a mini-stroke or more serious stroke. The researchers found that in the five days prior to hospitalization nearly 25 percent of the patients had experienced a TIA and did not recognize the symptoms. Only when the symptoms recurred did they take the physical signs seriously and seek medical help.
The researchers found that difficulty talking was experienced by 39 percent of the patients, while 30 percent of the patients had vision problems or temporary vision loss. In most of the patients, vision issues were the only symptom.
Among the subjects who did act on the symptoms:
- Eighteen percent went straight to the hospital
- Seventeen percent called emergency services
- Fifty-five percent called a doctor
- Ten percent specifically called an eye doctor
More than 60 percent delayed seeking medical help with “first symptoms.” They called family members, waited till the next day to do something, or did nothing.** But one symptom should be enough to indicate a possible stroke and get people to seek immediate medical attention.**
We’ve all had medical issues that make us hesitant to reach out and bother a family member or our very busy doctor. Most of us don’t want to be a nuisance to others and when experiencing even worrisome symptoms may ignore them, especially if finances are tight. However, if you experience any of the FACE symptoms, the message is — Do not hesitate —– any type of stroke is a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 or get to an emergency room as quickly as possible and let them know that you suspect you are having a stroke.
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Amy Hendel, also known as The HealthGal, is a Physician Assistant, nutritionist and fitness expert. As a health media personality, she’s been reporting and blogging on lifestyle issues and health news for over 20 years. Author of The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, her website offers daily health reports, links to her blogs, and a library of lifestyle video segments