June 16, 2009 -- Women may be more likely than men to have "nontraditional"
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
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
Mental change status (disorientation, confusion, or loss of
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
Lisabeth's team asked the patients (or a friend or relative, if the patient
couldn't speak) about the patients' stroke symptoms.
Most of the stroke or TIA patients experienced "traditional" stroke symptoms
or a combination of traditional and nontraditional stroke symptoms. Only 4% of
the women and 3% of the men only had nontraditional stroke symptoms.
Nontraditional stroke symptoms were reported by 116 women (52%) compared to
104 men (44%). Lisabeth and colleagues considered various other factors and
concluded that women were 42% more likely than men to report at least one
nontraditional TIA or stroke symptom.
Mental status change was the most common nontraditional stroke symptom,
which was reported by 23% of the women and 15% of the men.
The researchers caution that that finding could have been due to chance. But
since other studies have shown similar patterns, Lisabeth's team calls for
larger studies to look for gender gaps in TIA or ischemic stroke symptoms.