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Stroke Symptoms May Differ in Women

Women Less Likely to Report Classic Symptoms
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 8, 2007 (San Francisco) -- Female stroke victims are less likely to report classic stroke symptoms than men -- one possible explanation for why they aren't as likely to get a crucial stroke drug.

The new research found that female stroke victims are 33% less likely to report a classic stroke symptom when they arrive at the emergency room than their male counterparts.

The finding comes at a time when research shows women who suffer strokes are much less likely to be given the clot-busting drug tPA than men, notes researcher Julia Warner Gargano, MS, an epidemiologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

The most common type of stroke, an ischemic stroke, occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is compromised by a blood clot. This leads to the death of brain cells and brain damage.

“It’s a quandary,” says American Stroke Association spokesman Larry Goldstein, MD, a neurologist at Duke University who was not involved with the work.

“Women tend to have more symptoms that are very vague, so it’s hard to ascribe them to stroke. And if it’s not promptly diagnosed as stroke, it won’t be treated as a stroke,” he tells WebMD.

“If a woman tends to have a lot of headaches and she comes in with another headache, why would you even begin to think it’s a stroke?” Goldstein asks.

Gargano's study was presented here at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2007.

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