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Why are strokes so often misdiagnosed?

There are few things more frightening than the prospect of having a stroke. They can seemingly come out of nowhere. Even relatively young, healthy people can suffer strokes, as we've seen with the recent death of actor Luke Perry. As in his case, too often, they're fatal. Even when they aren't, they can be seriously debilitating.

A key to surviving a stroke and minimizing its long-term damage is to get proper treatment immediately. Unfortunately, stroke symptoms are often mistaken for other problems -- by the patient and too often even by medical professionals.

Some stroke victims are mistakenly believed to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. This can happen because people having a stroke may have trouble walking and slur their words.

Vision problems -- such as blurred or double vision -- are often chalked up to fatigue or old age. However, they can also be a symptom of a stroke that has blocked a blood vessel that carries oxygen to the eyes. Don't ignore sudden vision problems.

Women sometimes have strokes while they're pregnant, as they're giving birth and even in the weeks after they've had a baby. While symptoms like weakness in the arms or facial drooping could be caused by pregnancy-related changes to the body, don't ignore them. They could be signs that you're having a stroke.

Even people who go to the emergency room with symptoms of a stroke like dizziness and vertigo too often aren't correctly diagnosed with a stroke. Even if doctors do CT imaging, those scans aren't useful in diagnosing strokes. According to a recent article in Managed Care magazine, at least 30 percent of patients having a stroke who went to an emergency room are misdiagnosed.

The consequences of a misdiagnosed or undiagnosed stroke can be catastrophic. That's why it's essential for people to learn the signs of a stroke so that they can recognize one in themselves or others. However, if you or a loved one has been harmed or worse by a stroke that wasn't properly diagnosed, it may be wise to find out what your potential legal options are.

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