Alarming results from a British study show that the majority of people who have a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke do not seek emergency care. Because stroke knowledge seems to be lacking in the U.S. as well, the results likely apply to American behavior.
Why is this so alarming? Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and approximately 15 percent of strokes are preceded by TIA. The British study followed 1,000 patients after they had TIAs. More than two-thirds of them did not recognize their symptoms as a mini-stroke, and almost one third did not seek care within 24 hours.
Transient ischemic attacks are thought of as a warning before stroke. This is because they are often caused by the same issues that cause major stroke. When symptoms begin, there is no way to know whether you are having a TIA or a major stroke; the symptoms are the same. Treatment for stroke often includes clot-busting drugs, but they can only be given within three hours of symptom onset, otherwise there is too much risk involved. This means if you do not get emergency treatment as soon as symptoms begin, it may be too late to remove or dissolve a clot. Delay of treatment can quite literally cost you your life.
With the increases in obesity, diabetes, and other risk factors for stroke, recognizing symptoms and finding emergency care are vital. The costs of disability, medical treatment and rehab for strokes that might have been prevented are high. The cost in personal difficulties when you have to re-learn simple tasks such as speaking, walking, or even sitting upright are even higher.
Some common symptoms of TIA, mini-stroke, and major stroke are as follows:
• Weakness or numbness, especially on one side of the face or body
• Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
• Vision changes
• Difficulty walking
• Dizziness, loss of balance, loss of coordination
TIA and stroke are medical emergencies. To have the option of a full range of treatment and the possibility of reversing symptoms, you must receive treatment within three hours of symptom onset.