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    Gender Gap in Stroke Symptoms?

    Study: Women May Be More Likely Than Men to Experience 'Nontraditional' Stroke Symptoms
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    June 16, 2009 -- Women may be more likely than men to have "nontraditional" stroke symptoms, especially disorientation, confusion, or loss of consciousness, according to a new study.

    The University of Michigan's Lynda Lisabeth, PhD, and colleagues studied 470 people who were treated at the University of Michigan Hospital for ischemic (clot-related) stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack). They didn't study people who had hemorrhagic (bleeding) strokes.

    Most strokes are ischemic. In an ischemic stroke, a blood clot interrupts the blood supply to part of the brain. A similar thing happens in a TIA; the symptoms of TIA are similar to a stroke, but they don't last. TIAs are often called "mini strokes."

    Well-known symptoms of stroke or TIA include:

    • Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body.
    • Abrupt loss of vision, strength, coordination, sensation, speech or the ability to understand speech. These symptoms may become more marked over time.
    • Sudden dimness of vision, especially in one eye.
    • Sudden loss of balance, possibly accompanied by vomiting, nausea, fever, hiccups, or trouble with swallowing.
    • Sudden and severe headache with no other cause followed rapidly by loss of consciousness -- indications of a stroke due to bleeding.
    • Brief loss of consciousness.
    • Unexplained dizziness or sudden falls.

    Stroke is a medical emergency, so call 911 if you or someone you know experiences stroke symptoms. And do so as soon as possible -- clot-busting stroke drugs must be given ASAP.

    Studying Stroke Symptoms

    The new study, published in the June 1 edition of Stroke, defines nontraditional stroke symptoms as including:

    • Pain in the face or half of the body
    • Mental change status (disorientation, confusion, or loss of consciousness)
    • Lightheadedness
    • Headache
    • General neurological symptoms (nausea, hiccups, weakness)
    • Non-neurological symptoms (chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath)

    "Traditional" stroke symptoms included:

    • Numbness or paralysis on one side of the body
    • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
    • Double vision or other vision problems
    • Facial weakness
    • Coordination problems
    • Vertigo

    Lisabeth's team asked the patients (or a friend or relative, if the patient couldn't speak) about the patients' stroke symptoms.

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