From head to toe: Sex and gender differences in the treatment of ischemic cerebral disease

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Stroke is a major cause of mortality and morbidity, particularly in the older ages. Women have a longer life expectancy and are more likely to experience stroke than men. Interestingly, the increased risk of ischemic stroke in women seems to be independent from age or classical cardiovascular risk factors. Notwithstanding the fact that stroke outcomes and survival are usually poorer in women, current evidence suggests that thrombolysis, antiplatelet and anticoagulant therapies are more beneficial in women than in men. A possible explanation of this paradox might be that females are often undertreated and they have fewer chances to be submitted to an effective and timely treatment for stroke than the male counterpart. The first step in the attempt to solve this obvious discrimination is surely to emphasize any reasons for differences in the therapeutic approach in relation to gender and then to denounce the lack of a sustainable motivation for them. In this article, we aimed to review the existing literature about gender-related differences on efficacy, administration and side effects of the most common drugs used for the treatment of ischemic stroke. The most striking result was the evidence that the therapeutic approach for stroke is often different according to patients’ gender with a clear detrimental prognostic effect for women. A major effort is necessary to overcome this problem in order to ensure equal right to treatment without any sexual discrimination.

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