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Can doctors overlook stroke symptoms?

A stroke occurs when there is a sudden lack of oxygen in the brain, resulting in the immediate death of brain cells. It is the leading cause of adult disability in the United States, and the third-leading cause of death. Despite this, many doctors continue to misdiagnosis or ignore stroke symptoms until it is too late. It is paramount for everyone to be aware of the signs of a stroke, which include:

  • Sudden fainting
  • Vision changes, such as double vision, blurriness and dimness 
  • Complete loss of vision
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty understanding other people's speech
  • Difficulty finding or speaking words
  • Loss of coordination or loss of balance
  • Extreme headaches
  • Sudden loss of strength
  • Tingling or weakness in the legs
  • Numbness, heaviness or weakness on one side of the body

Not properly treating a stroke can lead to a brain injury, loss of motor skills, permanent paralysis or death. When someone is already in the care of a hospital, a doctor should identify a stroke promptly. However, research suggests many doctors overlook the common signs. 

ER doctors often miss the signs 

According to research from John Hopkins Medicine, ER doctors tend to overlook the signs of a stroke in women, younger patients and minorities. Some doctors are quick to dismiss the signs as a simple headache or dizziness. They send patients home with the wrong regimen, and the symptoms only get worse. This results in tens of thousands of Americans receiving misdiagnoses every year because doctors do not give the symptoms the attention they deserve. 

Sometimes, this occurs because doctors use the wrong equipment to diagnose patients. Some doctors use CT scans to identify a stroke, but the results may prove false. It is preferable to use an MRI machine, which is more capable of finding changes in the brain early on. 

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