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World Stroke Day: 5 common misconceptions about stroke

World Stroke Day is observed on October 29. Neurological diseases have a lot of overlapping symptoms making it difficult to arrive at a proper diagnosis. This is one of the reasons why stroke is sometimes under-diagnosed and more often over-diagnosed by the common people.

One needs to keep in mind that not all weakness and unconsciousness is stroke but such symptoms are neurological emergencies and may need immediate consultation. Stroke is one of the most common neurological emergencies. There are a lot of misconceptions prevailing about stroke.

#1 Many people believe that stroke invariably leads to weakness in one half of the body. Though it is true in most of the cases, the symptoms depend on the location of the stroke in the brain. A stroke is generally an acute event, ie developing within minutes to hours and may have various symptoms like visual disturbances, balance problems, speech difficulty, facial deviation and vomiting with or without any weakness, says Dr Aravinda RV, Consultant Neurologist, Brains Hospital, Bengaluru.

#2 Stroke may not always lead to the symptoms as mentioned before which may stay with the patient for the long term. We have come across patients who believe that it is a stroke only if the weakness or other symptoms last for many days or weeks. Though it is true in the majority of cases, there is a small subset of stroke called as TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) which is commonly regarded as 'mini stroke' or 'stroke warning' where the symptoms disappear within minutes to hours. This might be an indication that the patient might develop a full-blown stroke in coming hours/ days. The patient will need immediate medical attention and it is always best to get it checked in order to prevent any serious consequences.

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#3 Awareness regarding stroke is slowly increasing among the general public. People are now aware that there are medical and surgical options for treating acute stroke. But it is to be understood that not all the stroke patients will qualify for such treatment. Once they arrive to the emergency they will be evaluated for possible options.

#4 Ignorance is still prevailing particularly in rural areas about the treatment options regarding acute stroke. There is a section of people who believe that applying the blood of some animal and bird can help treat stroke. However, there is no scientific evidence yet, that applying animal/ bird blood all over the body and massage will be of much help in acute stroke. As it is well known that stroke is either bleeding in the brain or clotting of blood in the pipeline system of the brain, so such practice is hardly going to address the issue.

Rather than wasting time in such options, it is advisable to rush to the nearest stroke centre, get it diagnosed and go for the right treatment at the earliest. However, rehabilitation is an integral part of stroke management programme. Oil massage and other practices may be useful but only as a part of rehabilitation and not during the acute crises.

#5 Stroke preventive medicines are not foolproof. Many patients argue after the occurrence of stroke that they were taking medicines that were prescribed for preventing stroke but had failed. One needs to understand that this is the era of evidence-based medicine. Such medicine can reduce the risk of stroke substantially but scientifically and practically they can t make the person immune to stroke. Otherwise, with such mathematical logic, the world would have been stroke-free! Dr Aravinda.

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