Stroke symptoms vary considerably, depending upon:
- The type of stroke
- The part of the brain that is affected
- The severity of the brain damage
Usually, symptoms start suddenly and a disability is evident right away—for instance, weakness or paralysis in some part of the body, with or without a headache. Often, the symptoms get progressively worse over the first 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.
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.
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.
- Dizziness or vertigo (the feeling that you or everything around you is spinning)
- Sleepiness, reduced responsiveness, unconsciousness, or coma
- Changes in sense of touch, and sensations of pressure, temperature, or pain
- Difficulty speaking
- Inability to understand what another person is saying
- Difficulty swallowing
- 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
Updated: September 2017