Stroke symptoms vary considerably, depending upon:

  • The type of stroke
  • The part of the brain that is affected
  • The severity of the brain damage

Primary Symptoms

Usually, symptoms start suddenly and disability is evident right away (for example, weakness or paralysis of some part of the body, with or without a headache). Often, the symptoms get progressively worse over a few hours or days, or the symptoms may come and go. Some people are not even aware they have had a stroke. In cases of TIA, symptoms may last only a few minutes and go away completely.

If you suspect that you are having a stroke or TIA, call 911 right away. Do not drive to the hospital yourself. If it is a TIA, the symptoms will likely disappear before you get to the hospital. However, you still need to be evaluated immediately. 

The National Stroke Association suggests following the “FAST” guideline below if you suspect that you or someone in your care may be having a stroke.

FACE:  Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
ARMS:  Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
TIME:  If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 911 or go to the nearest stroke center or hospital. 

Other Symptoms

  • Dizziness or vertigo (the feeling that the person or their surroundings is spinning)
  • Sleepiness, reduced responsiveness, unconsciousness, or coma
  • Changes in sense of touch, and sensations of pressure, temperature, or pain
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Inability to understand what another person is saying
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Problems with reading or writing
  • Vision impairment – double vision, loss of vision
  • Problems identifying objects or knowing their functions
  • An intense, sudden headache
  • Trouble walking, clumsiness, or difficulties with coordination and balance
  • Muscle weakness in body parts such as the face, arms, or legs – often only on one side
  • Numbness in a specific part of the body

Last Updated September 2020