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Young Adults Suffering From Stroke Often Misdiagnosed

When people under 50 go to emergency because of a stroke, they are often misdiagnosed and may miss out on timely treatment, researchers say.

Typically, stroke victims are 55 or older. When younger people suffer stroke symptoms, emergency room professionals may mistake the slurred speech, stumbling and other symptoms for intoxication, a migraine or another condition.

At the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference on Wednesday in San Diego, researchers said they reviewed data on 57 patients, aged 16 to 50, and a median age of 34, who were enrolled in a stroke registry in Detroit since 2001.

Eight of these patients, or 14 per cent, were misdiagnosed and discharged from hospital, only to later discover that they had suffered a stroke.

Those misdiagnosed included:

An 18-year-old man who reported numbness on his left side but was diagnosed with alcohol intoxication.
A 37-year-old woman who arrived with difficulty speaking and was diagnosed with a seizure.
A 48-year-old woman with sudden blurred vision, an off-balance walk, lack of muscle co-ordination, difficulty speaking and weakness in her left hand, who was told she had an inner ear disorder.

"Accurate diagnosis of stroke on initial presentation in young adults can reduce the number of patients who have continued paralysis and continued speech problems," said Dr. Seemant Chaturvedi, senior author of the study and a professor of neurology and director of the stroke program at Wayne State University.

"We have seen several young patients who presented to emergency rooms with stroke-like symptoms within three to six hours of symptom onset, and these patients did not get proper treatment due to misdiagnosis. The first hours are really critical."

People arriving with symptoms such as vertigo and nausea should be assessed meticulously, he added.

Regardless of age, people should get to the hospital quickly if these stroke symptoms occur:

Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
Sudden trouble seeing in one eye or both eyes.
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or co-ordination.
Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

The clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, works to reduce permanent disability caused by a stroke if given soon after symptoms begin.

A stroke is a brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and one of the top causes of disability.



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