Aphasia is a warning sign that can occur one week before a stroke

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Strokes are serious medical emergencies that require immediate attention. They are caused by blood flow to the brain being temporarily cut off. In most cases this is due to a blood clot – in what is known as an ischaemic stroke.

This is the most common type of stroke, accounting for around 85 percent of cases.

They can also be caused by a blood vessel bursting – known as a haemorrhagic stroke.

The signs that someone is experiencing a stroke are fairly well known, with the acronym FAST (face, arms, speech, time) used to explain what should be done in that moment.

However, what is less known is that the warning signs that someone is at risk of a stroke can appear up to seven days prior to the event.

More specifically, someone could experience a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), which is also known as a “mini” stroke, before having a “full” stroke.

Research, published in Neurology journal in 2005, found that 23 percent of patients who suffered an ischaemic stroke experienced a TIA beforehand.

Of these patients, 43 percent experienced a TIA in the seven days prior to a stroke.

While 17 percent experienced a TIA on the same day and nine percent on the previous day.

The study concluded: “In patients presenting with ischaemic stroke, TIAs occur most often during the hours and days immediately preceding the stroke.”

One common symptom of a TIA that could therefore precede a stroke is aphasia.

This is the medical term for difficulty with speech – including struggling to understand what others are saying.

If you notice someone experiencing this symptom it is worth seeking medical help as soon as possible.

The FAST acronym used to identify strokes also applies to TIAs.

Face – The face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.

Arms – The person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there, because of weakness or numbness in one arm.

Speech – Their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all, despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.

Time – It’s time to call 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

The NHS explains: “The symptoms in the FAST test identify most strokes and TIAs, but a TIA can occasionally cause different symptoms that typically appear suddenly (usually over a few seconds).”

Other common signs of a TIA include:

  • Complete paralysis of one side of the body
  • Sudden vision loss, blurred vision or double vision
  • Vertigo
  • Being sick
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Problems with balance and co-ordination
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia).

You should call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance if you or someone else has symptoms of a TIA or stroke.

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