In the study, the researchers studied 400 patients who were diagnosed at Mayo Clinic's emergency department with acute ischemic stroke or a transient ischemic attack ie TIA, a temporary interruption of blood flow to part of the brain.
It was found that only 42 percent of the patients thought they were having a stroke. And when symptoms appeared, majority of the participants did not go to the emergency room. The median time from onset of symptoms to arrival at the hospital was over three and a half hours.
Most of the patients said they were thinking that the symptoms would simply go away. The delay in seeking medical help was the same among men and women.
On being asked how they knew about stroke symptoms, almost one-fifth said they thought a stroke always came on gradually. Only 51.9 percent of the patients said they thought that seeking medical care immediately was important.
"Time is crucial in treating stroke. Each individual's medical background differs and affects recovery, but in general the sooner a patient experiencing a stroke reaches emergency care, the more likely the stroke can be limited and the condition managed to prevent further damage and improve recovery," said Latha Stead, M.D., emergency medicine specialist and lead author of the study.
According to the researchers, the findings clearly project that better public understanding of stroke symptoms will lead to a faster response and better outcomes.
Generally, strokes can happen quickly or can occur over several hours, with the condition continually worsening. The thrombus or clot that is causing the stroke can frequently be dissolved or disintegrated so blood can again flow to the brain. In such cases, immediate treatment can mean the difference between a slight injury and a major disability.
What's interesting is that only 20.8 percent of the participants knew about such treatment. By use of stents, medications and other technology, physicians can stop a stroke from spreading and greatly limit damage, reports the British Medical Journal.
Stroke symptoms include: sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis of your face, arm or leg - usually on one side of the body; sudden difficulty speaking or understanding speech ie aphasia; sudden blurred, double or decreased vision; sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination; a sudden, severe "bolt out of the blue" headache or an unusual headache, which may be accompanied by a stiff neck, facial pain, pain between your eyes, vomiting or altered consciousness; confusion or problems with memory, spatial orientation or perception
In such cases, a stroke gives no warning. But one possible sign of an impending stroke is a TIA.
The signs and symptoms of TIA are the same as for a stroke, but they last for a shorter period - several minutes to a few hours - and then disappear, without leaving apparent permanent effects. You may have more than one TIA, and the signs and symptoms may be similar or different. A TIA indicates a serious risk that a full-blown stroke may follow.