x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Ignore stroke symptoms and pay the price later, says Abu Dhabi surgeon

Facial weakness, weakness in an arm or leg and a slurring of speech are among the signs to look out for in a minor stroke.

ABU DHABI // Slurred speech, facial weakness or a loss of strength on one side of the body are health problems that are hard to ignore.

But a vascular surgeon, Dr Mohammed Baguneid, thinks many people in Abu Dhabi are doing exactly that when these symptoms occur and then disappear quickly.

"Most people expect strokes to be very obvious and involve no function in their arm or leg but, in fact, many major strokes will start as a minor stroke a few weeks before the major stroke," said Dr Baguneid, who is the chief of vascular surgery at Mafraq Hospital.

"Minor strokes can completely resolve within 10 minutes or one hour but have the same symptoms and signs as a major stroke for those 10 minutes or one hour."

Weakness in the face, an arm or leg and slurred speech are some signs of a minor stroke, which are also less sever and shorter.

"Many of these people, once the symptoms have disappeared, will have thought, 'that's the end of that problem'," Dr Baguneid said.

"They should see a doctor straight away and explain that they are worried they might have had a stroke."

The British surgeon has been in Abu Dhabi six months and said he was surprised with how few patients he has seen with carotid artery disease, which is a major cause of stroke. He said he believes this is the case across the emirate.

"It's unlikely that the prevalence of the disease in Abu Dhabi is significantly lower than many other parts of the world, despite it being a younger population and, therefore, patients who have minor strokes must be dying of a disease that's otherwise treatable," he said.

With the high prevalence of smoking, diabetes and obesity, carotid artery disease - described as a furring up of arteries - is bound to be common in the UAE, he said. Surgery is the only way of reducing the stroke risk, he said.

Hassan Elbouheiri, a 66-year-old Palestinian who lives in Abu Dhabi, took action when he felt numbness on his left side. He was found to be having a minor stroke when he went to hospital.

He later had an appointment with Dr Baguneid, who decided surgery was necessary.

"There was very little pain. After three days they released me to go home," Mr Elbouheiri said.