Angela MacLeod: ‘Funny turns’ could be stroke risk

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Thousands of people a year could avoid the serious consequences of stroke by spotting the symptoms of a TIA (Transient Ischaemic Attack, also known as “mini-stroke”) and seeking urgent medical attention.

A TIA is the same as a stroke, except that the symptoms only last for a short amount of time and no longer than 24 hours.

However, there is no way to tell whether a person is having a TIA or a stroke when the symptoms first start.

A TIA is a warning sign that a person is at risk of a stroke that could cause them considerable harm. That’s why the Stroke Association is today launching a campaign to help people recognise the symptoms of TIA, take action, get the best possible response diagnosis and treatment and so minimise the risk of a stroke.

Our Not Just a Funny Turn report details the findings of a survey about the experience of people who have had a mini-stroke.

More than 650 people took part and we heard that most had known very little about TIA before they experienced one. Half of the participants said that they didn’t know what was happening to them and many mistook their symptoms for other conditions such as problems with their eyes, a migraine or a trapped nerve. More than a third put symptoms down to just “having a funny turn”.

For example, we spoke to one gentleman who told us about the first time he had a TIA. He found he couldn’t speak or move his left arm and collapsed on to the floor. After a short while the symptoms passed and he dismissed them as “just a funny turn”.

Five years and five TIAs later, he had a full-blown stroke. He now lives with long-terms effects including fatigue and poor balance.

It’s really important to recognise the symptoms of TIA and stroke for what they are. The FAST test can help with this. Look out for Facial weakness, Arm weakness, Speech problems and if any of these symptoms are present its Time to call 999.

We’ve launched this campaign because we want more people to recognise the symptoms of a TIA and understand the need for urgent action. We also want to see improvements in access to specialist assessment and treatment for everyone with suspected TIA and for people who have had a TIA to be supported to make their best possible recovery and reduce their risk of future stroke. To find out more visit www.stroke.org.uk/tia.

• Angela MacLeod is communications manager (media and campaigns) with the Stroke Association