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Knowing signs of stroke speeds treatment
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By Dr. David Hess
Special to the Coastal Courier (Hinesville, GA)

If you suspect a loved one has had a stroke, don’t wait. Once a stroke happens, doctors have only a three-hour window in which they can deliver medication to help prevent or reduce the debilitating effects.
Families and friends of those at risk should educate themselves on the signs and symptoms of stroke so that they can act immediately. Those at risk include those who are over 55, who smoke, or have heart or artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and a family history. And those at greatest risk are those who have experienced a previous stroke.
Signs include:
• Sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
• Sudden blurred or decreased vision in one or both eyes.
• Sudden confusion or difficulty understanding simple statements.
• Sudden difficulty speaking.
• Sudden loss of balance or coordination combined with another symptom.
• Severe headache with no known cause.
According to the American Stroke Association, fewer than 3 percent of stroke patients receive medication in time to treat stroke, especially in smaller communities that lack neurological services.
Treatment is available, but only if your loved one gets to an appropriate facility within three hours of having a stroke. Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone you know has had a stroke.

Hess is chief of Neurology for the Medical College of Georgia
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