Mini-stroke dismissed as 'funny turn'

Nichola Farrelly, 36: "As a busy scrub nurse who didn't drink or smoke, I never imagined I would have a stroke."

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Those who ignore symptoms of a TIA (transient ischaemic attack) or mini-stroke are running the risk of having a major stroke, the Stroke Association warns.

TIA causes similar symptoms to a stroke, such as speech problems, but may last only a few minutes.

A survey of TIA patients found more than one in three had dismissed their symptoms as just a "funny turn".

About 10,000 strokes could be prevented if TIAs were treated, said the charity.

• The symptoms of TIAs usually come on suddenly

• Mini-stroke symptoms are the same as for stroke but last no longer than 24 hours

Symptoms include facial weakness, such as drooping mouth or eyes, arm weakness, and speech problems

The greatest risk of having a major stroke was within the first few days after a TIA, said chief executive Jon Barrick.

For many people "it doesn't feel like an emergency because the symptoms are brief or mild", he said.

"There's nothing small about mini-stroke," he added.

"It's a medical emergency. When the symptoms start, you should call 999 and say you may be having a stroke."

'Simple ignorance'

The Fast test

  • Facial weakness - Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
  • Arm weakness - Can the person raise both arms?
  • Speech problems - Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • Time to call 999 - If you see any one of these signs, seek immediate medical attention.

Source: Stroke Association

Each year about 46,000 people in the UK suffer from a TIA for the first time.

One in 20 people will have a major stroke within two days of a mini-stroke and this figure rises to one in 12 within a week of a TIA.

BBC TV presenter Andrew Marr, who has recovered from a stroke, said: "I had two mini-strokes before going on to have a major stroke.

"I was one of the thousands of people who dismissed the warning signs - simple ignorance."

'I had a TIA at 24'

Peter Tugwell

Peter Tugwell from Essex was only 24 when he suddenly became ill.

"I was normal one minute, then I got pins and needles from the top of my shoulder down to my hand - I had no grip," he told BBC News.

"I slid down the wall into a heap on the floor."

His mother called an ambulance, but when paramedics arrived they thought he was too young for a TIA.

"They thought it was a 'funny turn'," he said.

He was eventually taken to hospital for treatment.

"TIA can happen at any age - take it seriously," said Mr Tugwell, now 25.

The Stroke Association's survey of 670 people who had had a mini-stroke found:

  • 37% had thought it was a "funny turn"
  • 22% rang 999
  • 47% said the symptoms had not felt like an emergency
  • 20% went on to have a major stroke

In 2009, the Department of Health launched the Stroke - Act Fast (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) campaign.

It aims to boost awareness of symptoms of stroke and TIA.

The NHS in England subsequently saw a 25% rise in stroke-related 999 calls and a 19% rise in stroke patients being seen quicker.

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