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During Stroke Awareness Month, Get to Know the Signs

A lot of people suffer dizzy spells and headaches. In most cases they probably let things pass without taking much action besides the downing of some over the counter pain pills and taking a rest.

What readers may not know is that dizziness and headaches may be indicators of a stroke in the making, especially if they happen to show up in younger people, women and minorities. What may be even more disconcerting is that the symptoms are too often overlooked by doctors in the emergency room setting.

That’s the conclusion of a study by doctors at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The researchers say such instances of failure to diagnose could be reversed with a little more vigilance for the signals on the part of ER doctors. Publication of the findings came out within the past few weeks — timely considering that we are now in National Stroke Awareness Month.

The researchers looked at the inpatient discharge records and ER visit records of more than 187,000 patient records to do their assessment. What they found was that nearly 13 percent of all those admitted to the hospital for stroke had been to the ER within the previous month presenting with dizziness and headaches. But they were sent home with the wrong diagnosis or no diagnosis at all.

The researchers estimate that that anywhere from 50,000 and 100,000 stroke cases are misdiagnosed in the country every year. Considering the devastating brain damage that can occur, researchers say it’s imperative that doctors do more to rule out the possibility of strokes, especially in younger patients.

Shy of an official diagnosis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that everyone become familiar with the signs of stroke, which include:

  • Numbness or weakness along one side of the body.
  • Trouble speaking, confusion, or difficulty understanding.
  • Blurred vision in one or both eyes.
  • Dizziness, loss of coordination, or trouble walking.
  • Severe, unexplained headache.

Source: MedPage Today, “Stroke Rounds: Early Signs of Stroke Missed in Many Cases,” Todd Neale, April 8, 2014
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “May is National Stroke Awareness Month,” undated