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Could your doctor be missing the warning signs of a stroke?

If you're elderly and have seizures or care for an elderly parent or other relative who does, could your doctor be ignoring the early-warning signals of a stroke? A new study suggests that cerebrovascular disease may go undiagnosed in older patients who have epilepsy -- and it's already known that epilepsy is often misdiagnosed in the elderly.

The risk of epilepsy, which is a broad term for any brain disorder that causes seizures, occurs with increasing frequency as people age. Seizures in older adults often go unnoticed, however, because they're mistaken for dizziness, falls or sensory changes like numbness that go along with aging and increasing feebleness. Unlike the stereotypical convulsions that most people picture when they think of seizures, complex partial seizures can make someone with epilepsy simply appear dazed or seem confused -- which can mistaken as anything from sleeplessness to the early signs of dementia.

If your doctor misses the tell-tale signs of seizures and dismisses your concerns, you or your elderly relative could be missing out on treatment that's necessary to control your seizures. Worse, you may also be missing out on diagnostic tests that can determine your risk for a stroke and the necessary follow-up care. It isn't enough just to treat the seizures -- their presence indicates that you or your elderly relative should also be evaluated with new eyes for the risk of a stroke.

The most recent study indicates that elderly patients with epilepsy have a much greater risk of having vascular disease and other stroke-risk factors, including hypertension, atrial fibrillation, peripheral vascular disease, coronary artery disease and ischemic stroke than the rest of the population.

If the epilepsy is identified early enough, other risk factors for stroke like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and atrial fibrillation can all be discussed and treated. Controlling all of these factors together can be complicated, but it's necessary for your or your elderly relative to live a healthier, happier life as you age.

If your family doctor missed all the signs of epilepsy or failed to evaluate you or your elderly relative for the risk of a stroke in time, an attorney can provide more information about a medical malpractice claim.

Source: Medscape, "Epilepsy in Elderly Could Signal Increased Stroke Risk," Sue Huges, March 17, 2017

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