Dysphagia may be a warning sign of a stroke – could hit a week before

Advert warns to act FAST when you see signs of a stroke

A stroke is a dangerous medical emergency caused by blood supply to part of the brain being temporarily cut off. In the majority of cases this is due to a blood clot, resulting in what is known as an ischaemic stroke. And as with any medical condition, the sooner you spot the warning signs of a stroke, the better chance there is of survival.

Many of us are aware of the most common signs that a stroke is occurring, due to the FAST acronym.

Face – The face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.

Arms – The person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there, because of weakness or numbness in one arm.

Speech – Their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all, despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.

Time – It’s time to call 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

However, there are other signs that could appear up to a week in advance.

According to research, published in Neurology journal in 2005, almost a quarter of people experience a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), which is also known as a “mini” stroke, before having a “full” stroke.

The study found that 23 percent of patients who suffered an ischaemic stroke experienced a TIA beforehand.

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Among these patients, 43 percent experienced a TIA in the week prior to a stroke.

It also revealed that 17 percent experienced a TIA on the same day and nine percent on the previous day.

The study said: “In patients presenting with ischaemic stroke, TIAs occur most often during the hours and days immediately preceding the stroke.”

One symptom of a TIA that could therefore proceed an ischaemic stroke is dysphagia.

This is the medical term for difficulty swallowing, and it could also signal problems such as head injury, multiple sclerosis or dementia.

If someone is experiencing dysphagia, especially if combined with other TIA symptoms, it is important they seek medical help.

Other TIA symptoms include:

  • Complete paralysis of one side of the body
  • Sudden vision loss, blurred vision or double vision
  • Vertigo
  • Being sick
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Problems with balance and co-ordination
  • Difficulty with speech.

The NHS explains: “The symptoms in the FAST test identify most strokes and TIAs, but a TIA can occasionally cause different symptoms that typically appear suddenly (usually over a few seconds).”

If you or someone you know is displaying signs of a TIA or stroke you should call 999 immediately.

“A TIA is a warning that you’re at risk of having a full stroke in the near future,” the NHS says.

“An assessment can help doctors determine the best way to reduce the chances of this happening.

“If you think you’ve had a TIA previously, but the symptoms have since passed and you did not get medical advice at the time, make an urgent appointment with a GP. They can refer you for a hospital assessment, if appropriate.”s

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