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14 Warning Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke FAST

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to an area of the brain is cut off. The symptoms depend upon the region of the brain that is affected by the loss of blood supply and can include changes in sensation or motor control.

Symptoms of a stroke also depend on how much of the brain tissue is deprived of blood supply. For example, someone who had a mild stroke may experience temporary weakness of an arm or leg, but those with a more severe stroke may be permanently paralyzed on one side of their body or be unable to speak. If the blood supply is not quickly restored, either on its own or via medical treatment, the effects may be permanent.

A transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is sometimes referred to as a “mini-stroke.” With a TIA, the stroke symptoms occur but go away on their own.

Some people fully recover from strokes, but over two-thirds of stroke survivors are left with some type of disability.

How can you tell if a person is having a stroke?

Acting fast is critical if you suspect that someone may be having a stroke. Immediate treatment of a stroke can minimize the long-term effects of the stroke and can even help reduce a person’s risk of death from stroke.

FAST is an acronym that can help you quickly recognize the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke. You can even download a FAST app from the webpage of the American Stroke Association to help you remember these signs.

Use FAST to remember and recognize the following signs and symptoms of stroke

14 Warning Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

While these are the hallmark symptoms of stroke, a stroke can cause disruption of any function of the nervous system. Symptoms of stroke typically occur on one side of the body and come on suddenly. With a transient ischemic attack (sometimes called a mini-stroke or TIA) the symptoms appear and may go away on their own. In any case, it is essential to get the affected person to a hospital as soon as possible to enable prompt treatment.

Other possible signs and symptoms of stroke include the sudden onset of:

  1. Weakness or paralysis of any part of the body
  2. Numbness or a “pins and needles” sensation anywhere in the body
  3. Gait disturbances (trouble walking) or loss of balance and coordination
  4. Vision changes, blurred vision, or trouble with eyesight in one or both eyes
  5. Dizziness
  6. Severe headache that usually is unlike headaches in the past
  7. Confusion
  8. Inability to speak, slurred speech, or inability to understand speech
  9. Loss of sensation in any part of the body
  10. Memory loss
  11. Behavioral changes
  12. Muscle stiffness
  13. Difficulty swallowing
  14. Involuntary eye movements

What are the signs and symptoms of a mini-stroke (TIA, transient ischemic attack)?

The symptoms of a TIA or mini-stroke are the same as those of a stroke as listed above. With a mini-stroke, the symptoms go away on their own. Any symptoms of a stroke can occur during a mini-stroke.

What should I do if someone has symptoms and signs of a stroke?

Remember to think and act FAST (Face drooping; Arm weakness; Speech difficulty; and Time to call 911!) if you see someone who may be having these symptoms. Don’t delay and call 9-1-1 immediately. You may help save a life or reduce the chance of long-term disability.

Which specialties of doctors treat strokes?

A person who is having a stroke is typically cared for in an emergency department, and initially seen by a specialist in emergency medicine. Doctors typically involved in the care of patients with stroke can include

  • neurologists,
  • endovascular surgical neuroradiology (ESNR) specialists,
  • interventional radiologists (IR),
  • interventional cardiologists (IC), and
  • critical care specialists.