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Symptoms of Stroke

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Symptoms of stroke occur when blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted. They can occur suddenly and differ depending on the part of the brain that is affected. Multiple symptoms can happen together because the blocked or bleeding blood vessels may supply a large enough area of the brain that includes multiple functions. Anything your brain does may be affected.

If you experience any of the symptoms listed below in alone or together, call for emergency medical services right away.

Blood Supply and Lack of Blood Supply to the Brain
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The acronym F.A.S.T. may be the easiest way to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of a stroke. According to the American Stroke Association, F.A.S.T. means:

  • F—Face drooping —Drooping on one side of the face, with or without numbness. Ask the person to smile, it should not be uneven.
  • A—Arm weakness —Arm weakness with or without numbness. Can the person lift both arms? One arm may drift downward.
  • S—Speech difficulty —When the person speaks, is it slurred or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Listen for any abnormalities.
  • T—Time to call for emergency medical services —Call right away if someone shows these signs or symptoms, even if they go away. It is very important to note the time symptoms first appeared and when you called for medical help.

Other common symptoms that can occur along with symptoms above include:

  • Sudden onset of confusion, difficulty swallowing, or difficulty understanding what others are saying
  • Blurry, dimming, or no vision in one or both eyes
  • Lightheadedness, falling, or loss of balance
  • Severe or unusual headache

Stroke can cause severe, permanent damage to the brain, or death. Quick medical treatment is important to increase the chance of survival and decrease the amount of damage. The sooner the blood flow is restored the better the outcomes tend to be. Ideally, treatment should be within the first brief hours after symptoms begin. Do not drive yourself or someone else to the hospital. Emergency medical service personnel can increase the chance of survival and decrease injury by giving treatments while on the way to the hospital.

Revision Information

  • Stroke (acute management). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 22, 2014. Accessed June 13, 2014.

  • Warning signs of stroke. National Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Stroke-Warning-Signs%5FUCM%5F308528%5FSubHomePage.jsp. Accessed June 13, 2014.

  • What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/stroke/signs.html. Updated March 26, 2014. Accessed June 13, 2014.