Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Myth: Headaches always accompany strokes

This is a cautionary note about a myth that might make you hesitate to get some help if you or someone you care about might be having a stroke.

People might remember the following stroke symptoms, as the American Stroke Association lays out:
  • 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 or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
However, people might miss the not-so-fine print, also on the association's Web site:

If you notice one or more of these signs, don't wait. Stroke is a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 or your emergency medical services. Get to a hospital right away!

Notice the association doesn't say get if if someone has all the signs. Just once would suffice.

I did not have a headache associated with my stroke. Most of the people I've spoken with who have gone through having a stroke tell me that he or she did not have a headache. While a sudden, severe headache is a clear warning sign, especially of a hemorrhagic stroke. But it's only one sign, and you should pay attention to all of them.

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