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Stroke Symptoms Not Caused by Strokes

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Updated May 15, 2014

Stroke Symptoms Not Caused by Strokes
Stroke symptoms develop when oxygen and nutrients are lacking in a part of the brain. If these symptoms go away within 24 hours, the event is called a mini stroke. You may think that a mini stroke, or a stroke for that matter, is easy to spot. But a few conditions which can exactly mimic a stroke can make the process of diagnosing someone with a mini stroke very difficult. To avoid misdiagnosing someone, doctors must consider all the other potential culprits which can give someone short-lived, stroke-like symptoms, especially if their CT and MRI scans are normal.

Conditions that can mimic symptoms of a mini stroke include:

  • Seizures
    These are episodes of abnormal brain activity. Although most people are familiar with the type of seizures that cause unconsciousness and violent body shakes, there are other types of seizures that resemble TIAs. Some of the shared symptoms include weakness in one limb, memory disturbance, and inattention.

  • Migraines
    Migraines are debilitating headaches that affect a large percent of the population. Some types of migraines are accompanied by symptoms that can be confused with a mini stroke, including temporary facial paralysis, vertigo, blurry vision, and weakness or numbness in the limbs.

  • Dizziness
    This is one of the most non-specific, yet potentially significant symptoms a person can experience. In fact, people can feel similar degrees of "dizziness" from a stomach virus as they do from a stroke. Because of this, when a person comes to the emergency department with unexplained dizziness, a mini stroke or a stroke should always considered as possible causes.

  • Memory Disturbance
    When a mini stroke affects one of the memory areas of the brain, it can cause temporary memory disturbances. However, many other conditions can cause memory disturbances, including seizures and migraine headaches. For this reason, whenever a person comes to the emergency department with a memory disturbance, doctors must make sure the symptoms are not caused by a stroke or a mini stroke.
Are you at risk of having a stroke?

Source: J. P. Mohr, Dennis W. Choi, James C. Grotta, Bryce Weir, Phillip A. Wolf Stroke: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Management Churchill Livingstone; 4th edition (2004)

Related:
What is a stroke?
What are the symptoms of a stroke?

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