Most people associate stroke with sudden weakness, face drooping or speech difficulties, but did you know that dizziness, tingling or feeling confused can be signs of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke?
TIAs happen when blood flow to the brain is interrupted temporarily. Early diagnosis of a TIA can help prevent a massive stroke or death.
Feeling dizzy or confused are among the symptoms that are considered to be ‘atypical’ and not what is usually thought of when it comes to stroke. Yet, these signs are important to recognize, because the faster you see them, the faster you can get to the emergency department for help.
“I think it’s important to recognize that the brain has so many different functions and when a stroke is happening, people can feel different things beyond the typical stroke symptoms,” says Dr. Amy Yu, a stroke neurologist at Sunnybrook.
Women, men and stroke symptoms
Dr. Yu is the lead author in a new study that investigated the differences in symptoms reported by men and women with suspected minor stroke or TIA. She found that both were equally likely to have atypical symptoms of stroke, but women were less likely to be diagnosed with stroke.
“We were interested in finding out whether women were more or less likely than men to report ‘atypical’ stroke symptoms like dizziness, tingling, or confusion,” says Dr. Yu. “We found no differences, but women were less likely to be diagnosed as TIA or minor stroke. However, within the next 90 days, women were equally likely to have another stroke compared to men.”
Study investigators say their study highlights the need for further research into why there is a difference in the diagnosis of TIA among men and women.
Dr. Yu says the key take-away from the study is for people and clinicians to be aware of these atypical symptoms. “People who have minor strokes or TIAs may report symptoms that were not traditionally taught as typical for stroke but it’s important to report and investigate them. Early diagnosis can help prevent the occurrence of another stroke, heart attack or even death.”