Don’t ignore the warning signs
07 November 2012
Hard-hitting campaigns in the national media have hit their target by raising widespread awareness of stroke symptoms. But now doctors at Southend University Hospital want to make the public as clued-up about mini strokes, or ‘TIAs’.
Transient ischaemic attacks are frequently the precursor of a
full-blown stroke so need immediate medical attention. The symptoms
are the same as for stroke (FAST: Facial or Arm weakness and/or
slurred Speech) but disappear quite quickly. And because they do go
away, they are too often just dismissed as a 'funny turn'.
But, says specialist Dr Thaya Loganathan: "One in eight people
who have a TIA and are high risk go on to have a full stroke within
a week. The risk is highest within 24 hours, so it is extremely
important patients seek urgent medical attention to insure prompt
treatment as soon as they experience any symptoms."
The strange feelings of weakness, inability to form words
properly or sudden loss of vision are caused by a blood clot
reducing the blood flow from the heart to the brain. If that clot
disperses quickly, the symptoms also disappear.
But, says Dr Loganathan, it is a warning that a more severe
stroke could happen any time.
Anyone experiencing such symptoms should see their GP
immediately, or go along to Southend's A&E department. They
will be referred urgently to the TIA clinic for immediate scans and
Dr Loganathan said: "We have fantastic support from the
radiology department, especially the radiographers who ensure
patients are scanned without delay. Even an MRI scan can be done on
the same day."
Patients found to have narrowing of the carotid artery leading
to the brain are also seen within 24 hours by vascular surgeons and
urgent treatment arranged.
Dr Loganathan said: "We are concerned that too many people are
ignoring mini strokes. But just because the symptoms go away, it
does not mean they are not in danger - quite the opposite in
"Our message is just come and get checked. We do not mind at all
seeing patients who have not had a TIA - but we don't want to miss
one who has. We can give them appropriate treatment and avoid a
Derek Iles knew something was wrong when he went to feed his
cat. First, he dropped the bowl and then he was unable to use his
left hand properly as he tried to chop up the food.
The 76-year-old retired residential carer, of Brightwell Avenue,
Westcliff, phoned a neighbour for help and within a couple of hours
he was in a bed in Southend University Hospital, having undergone a
series of scans and tests.
They revealed that had had a slight stroke when he arrived at
the hospital. But doctors have told him that he is lucky that it
was not far more serious.
Derek, who is chairman of Southend Older People's Assembly,
admits he had been ignoring some other signs over the previous week
"My eyes kept watering and I had had a fall when I was crossing
the road. I was getting my words mixed up, I was tired all the time
and had had to hold on to a kitchen worktop when I felt dizzy.
"I had also been having pins and needles in my arm, but just
thought it was the way I was sitting.
"They said I did the right thing to come straight to
hospital as I could have been paralysed if I had gone on to have
Derek is now on medication and having intensive physiotherapy
and has been told that he should regain full use of his left
Now he wants to warn others not to ignore symptoms which could
point to a TIA or mini stroke.
"When the paramedic first arrived, I was feeling a bit better
and did not want to come to hospital but he insisted. I am glad he
"I would advise anyone to get medical help straight away if they
experience any signs.
"I had a lucky escape."
With pic: Patient Derek Iles with Dr Thaya Loganathan