14 Warning Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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 completely from strokes, but over 2/3 of stroke survivors are left with some type of disability.

What is FAST (recognizing stroke symptoms and signs early)?

Acting fast is critical if you suspect that someone may be having a stroke. Immediate treatment of a stroke can minimize 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 stroke. You can even download a FAST app from the webpage of the American Stroke Association to help you remember these signs.

What are FAST stroke symptoms and signs?

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

  • F: Face drooping. Ask the person to smile, and see if one side is drooping. One side of the face may also be numb, and the smile may appear uneven.
  • A: Arm weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms. Is there weakness or numbness on one side? One arm drifting downward is a sign of one-sided arm weakness.
  • S: Speech difficulty. People having a stroke may slur their speech or have trouble speaking at all. Speech may be incomprehensible. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence and look for any speech abnormality.
  • T: Time to call 9-1-1! If a person shows any of the symptoms above, even if the symptoms went away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to a hospital immediately.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/3/2016

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