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Stroke Symptoms: The Warning Signs of Stroke

The signs and symptoms of stroke can vary widely and can occur at the same time. Symptoms depend upon the type of stroke, the severity of the "brain attack" and the area of the brain affected.

For example, one may not feel much pain during an ischemic stroke (where a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain), but ischemic strokes can kill — more than 100,000 Americans every year, in fact.

Hemorrhagic stroke (when a blood vessel breaks, leaking blood into the brain) is equally deadly. Yet, this form of brain attack typically entails a different set of stroke symptoms — many of which are related to increased pressure within the brain.

The signs of a stroke can manifest themselves without warning. Many people who experience stroke symptoms are not aware that they're having a stroke.

John C. Lincoln would like you and your loved ones to be able to recognize the signs of stroke, so that you'll be more able to call for lifesaving treatment, if needed.

Think "F.A.S.T."

In general, stroke symptoms can be identified with the "F.A.S.T." system:

  • F — Face: Does it droop on one side? Can the patient smile and show all teeth?
  • A — Arms: Are they equally strong? Can the patient raise both arms and hold them up?
  • S — Speech: Is it slurred or garbled? Can the patient speak normal sentences?
  • T — Time: Don't waste it! If you or someone you love has any symptoms of stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately!

Ischemic Stroke Symptoms

For ischemic stroke, which results from a blood clot in the brain, the signs of stroke include the sudden onset of:

  • Numbness or weakness in your face, arm or leg — particularly on one side of your body
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination; trouble walking
  • Slurred speech or trouble understanding speech
  • Difficulty seeing: Blurred vision, in one or both eyes, or double vision

Many ischemic stroke symptoms show similarities with hemorrhagic stroke symptoms.

Hemorrhagic Stroke Symptoms

Hemorrhagic stroke is often caused by high blood pressure, which stresses artery walls to a breaking point. The brain is highly sensitive to the presence of leaking blood. As a defense mechanism, it responds by swelling. Likewise, leaked blood can shift brain tissue against the skull. Either way, pressure builds within the skull.

Therefore, a sudden, severe "bolt out of the blue" headache or an unusual headache may result. Simultaneously, other signs of stroke include stiff neck, facial pain, pain between the eyes, vomiting or altered consciousness.

Hemorrhagic stroke symptoms include the sudden onset of:

  • Weakness or inability to move a body part
  • Drowsiness, stupor, lethargy or confusion
  • Loss of sensation
  • Decreased or lost vision (may be partial)
  • Speech difficulties and inability to discern familiar objects
  • Dizziness, vertigo (sensation of the world spinning around) and loss of coordination
  • Facial droop and/or difficulty swallowing

When Stroke Symptoms Strike, Call 9-1-1

Calling 9-1-1 ensures that stroke sufferers receive potentially life-saving pre-hospital treatment (on the way to the hospital) and the fastest access to emergency room care.

Reacting quickly to the signs of stroke makes it possible for our stroke teams to provide the newest medications and treatments. For example, clot-busting treatments for ischemic strokes only can be used within three hours after the signs of stroke first appear.

Remember, stroke is a medical emergency and "time is brain." The sooner you can secure medical treatment, the greater the chances of limiting brain cell damage. Therefore, if you or a loved one suddenly experiences any of the signs of stroke listed above, please call 9-1-1 immediately.