- Weakness or numbness on the face, arms, or legs, usually affecting one side of the body
- Difficulty speaking or comprehending language
- Decreased or blurring of vision
- Giddiness and loss of balance
- Intense headache (often described as the worst headache one has experienced) without an identifiable cause)
Other signs and symptoms of a stroke:
- Diplopia (double vision)
- Pain over the face or legs
- Generalized weakness
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty eating and swallowing
- Loss of consciousness
- Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
- “Locked in” syndrome (only being able to move the eyes)
What is a stroke?
A stroke, also called cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when the blood supply is cut off or reduced to a part of the brain. This causes a decrease in oxygenation of the brain and prevents the brain tissue from receiving sufficient nutrition. Eventually, the brain cells begin to die. This entire process takes place within a few minutes. A stroke is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention. Quick diagnosis and treatment can reduce brain damage, disabilities, and other complications that can be permanent.
What causes a stroke?
The possible causes of a stroke include:
- Atherosclerosis (fatty substance/cholesterol called plaque gets collected in your arteries and narrows them)
- A blood clot in the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain
- Bleeding within the brain
- Bleeding with the brain stem
- Heart attack
- Defects of the heart valves
- Arrhythmia (Irregular heart rhythm)
Several factors that increase the risk of a stroke:
- High blood pressure
- Bleeding disorders
- Recreational drug abuse (especially cocaine)
- Abnormal blood vessels
- Age above 65 years
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- History of strokes
- Family history of strokes
- Hormone therapy and oral contraceptive pills
- Unhealthy diet and lack of exercise
What do you do if you suspect a stroke?
It is important to be able to identify the signs of a stroke and immediately seek medical help. Being able to identify a stroke and calling for help could be lifesaving for oneself and for a person having a stroke because brain damage begins within minutes. The acronym F.A.S.T. is helpful to remember the most common warning signs of a stroke and react accordingly. Even if the signs of a stroke disappear, medical attention is still required.
- F - Face drooping: One side of the face droops or is numb. When asked to smile, the smile becomes uneven or lopsided.
- A - Arm weakness: It is weakness and/or numbness of one arm. When asked to lift both arms, the arm of the affected side drifts downward.
- S - Speech difficulty: It is slurring of speech. When asked to speak, the words cannot be comprehended.
- T - Time: It is time to call for help (911 in the United States. Helpline numbers are different in different countries) or rush to a hospital, whichever is faster. The Sooner the treatment begins, the better the prognosis. It is recommended that treatment begins within 4.5 hours.
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What are the complications of a stroke?
A stroke can sometimes cause temporary or permanent disabilities, which can drastically reduce the individual’s quality of life and prevent them from being self-sufficient. The risk of complications depends on how long the oxygen supply to the brain has been compromised, part of the brain is affected and is the onset of treatment. Seeking immediate medical attention and appropriate treatment may minimize or prevent complications. Complications may include:
- Paralysis: Patients may become paralyzed on one side of the body or lose control of certain groups of muscles on one side of the body. In some cases, such as a brain stem stroke, patients may be completely paralyzed below the neck (Locked-in syndrome).
- Difficulty talking or swallowing: A stroke can permanently cause loss of control of the muscles in your mouth and throat, causing difficulty in speaking, swallowing, or eating.
- Difficulty in comprehending: Difficulty in comprehending and responding to speech and language, reading, or writing.
- Memory loss or thinking difficulties: Many stroke patients have memory loss, difficulty thinking, reasoning, making judgments, following instructions, and understanding concepts.
- Emotional problems: Stroke patients can have difficulty controlling their emotions, and they may have emotional outbursts or develop depression.
- Pain: Pain, numbness, tingling, or other uncomfortable sensations may occur throughout the parts of the body affected by a stroke.
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Top Warning Signs of a Stroke Related Articles
Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Stroke (FAST)Stroke is a serious medical condition. If you think you or someone you know is having a stroke call 911 immediately. There are two main types of strokes, hemorrhagic and ischemic (the most common type). A hemorrhagic stroke occurs due to a blood vessel rupture in the brain. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot becomes lodged in a blood vessel in the brain, which causes a loss of blood supply to the brain, possibly causing brain tissue death. FAST is an acronym that helps people identify stroke signs and symptoms so they can act fast and call 911. Face drooping, Arm weakness, and Speech difficulty are indicators that a person may be having a stroke and it is Time to seek emergency medical treatment. Additional signs and symptoms of stroke may include weakness, difficulty walking, blurred vision, dizziness, headache, confusion, difficulty speaking, and loss of sensation. Stroke is a major cause of death and disability in the U.S. Early identification and treatment of stroke helps reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality.
What Is the Difference Between Ischemic Stroke and Hemorrhagic Stroke?A stroke is a serious medical event that can have lasting consequences. Learn more about the two primary types of strokes and how to recognize the symptoms.
Heart Attack vs. Stroke Symptoms, Differences, and Similarities
Heart attack usually is caused by a clot that stops blood flow supplying oxygen to an area of heart muscle, which results in heart muscle death. Stroke or "brain attack" is caused by a loss of blood supply to the brain (usually a blood clot) or by hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding within the brain), which results in brain tissue death. Both heart attack and stroke usually come on suddenly, produce similar symptoms, can be disabling, and can be fatal.
The classic symptoms and warning signs of heart attack are different.
Classic heart attack warning signs are chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, pain that radiates to the shoulders, back, arms, belly, jaw, or teeth, sweating, fainting, and nausea and vomiting. Moreover, woman having a heart attack may have additional symptoms like abdominal pain or discomfort, dizziness, clammy skin, and moderate to severe fatigue.
The classic symptoms and warning signs that a person is having a stroke are confusion or loss of consciousness, sudden severe headache, speech problems, problems seeing out of one or both eyes, and numbness or weakness of only one side of the body. Moreover, a woman having a stroke may have additional warning symptom and signs like shortness of breath, disorientation, agitation, behavioral changes, weakness, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and hiccups.
Recognition of stroke symptoms is vital for emergency treatment. The acronym "FAST" stands for recognition of Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and a Time for action.
If you experience the symptoms heart attack or stroke (FAST) or see them develop in another person, then contact 911 immediately.
How Long Do Carotid Artery Stents Last?Carotid angioplasty and carotid stenting are minimally invasive procedures that widen the openings of the clogged carotid arteries to restore blood flow to the brain. They are often performed to treat or prevent strokes. Once placed, the stent permanently stays inside the artery.
Migraine and StrokeMigraine headache is a type of headache in which the exact cause is not known; however, they may be inherited, and certain foods and environmental factors can trigger and may contribute them. A stroke (brain attack) happens when a blood vessel in the brain leaks, bursts, or becomes blocked, which can be caused by many other health problems. Both migraines and strokes can can cause severe head pain (migraine pain usually is only on one side of the head). Migraine aura symptoms may mimic or feel like a stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack, TIA) because they have similar symptoms and signs like severe headache, numbness in the legs, feet, arms, hands, or face, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Other migraine aura symptoms include vision problems like flashing lights or blind spots in one eye. The main difference between migraine headache and stroke symptoms and signs is that a migraine headaches usually come on gradually while a stroke symptoms come on suddenly and unexpectedly.
Stroke SlideshowWhat is a stroke? Learn about stroke symptoms like sudden numbness or weakness, confusion, vision problems, or problems with coordination. Discover causes and recovery of a stroke.
Stroke QuizTake the Stroke Quiz to learn about stroke risks, causes, treatment, and most importantly, prevention.
StrokeA stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic). Symptoms of a stroke may include: weakness, numbness, double vision or vision loss, confusion, vertigo, difficulty speaking or understanding speech. A physical exam, imaging tests, neurological exam, and blood tests may be used to diagnose a stroke. Treatment may include administration of clot-busting drugs, supportive care, and in some instances, neurosurgery. The risk of stroke can be reduced by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stopping smoking.
Stroke vs. Mini-Stroke (TIA) DifferencesA stroke or "brain attack" occurs when a blood clot or artery ruptures within the brain. The rupture or clot causes brain cell damage or death. A mini-stroke (TIA, transient ischemic attack) is caused by brain cells that dysfunctional over a short period. Stroke and mini-stroke warning signs of stroke and mini stroke are the same, and include, speech problems, weakness, numbness, and facial droop. Side effects of stroke may be permanent and you may never regain full function of the parts of the body affected. Mini-stroke side effects usually resolve within minutes to a couple of days. A transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke) is a precursor for stroke because 40% of individuals who have a mini-stroke will have a stroke within a year. Treatment of stroke depends upon the type and parts of the body affected.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA, Mini-Stroke)
When a portion of the brain loses blood supply, through a blood clot or embolus, a transient ischemic attack (TIA, mini-stroke) may occur. If the symptoms do not resolve, a stroke most likely has occurred. Symptoms of TIA include: confusion, weakness, lethargy, and loss of function to one side of the body. Risk factors for TIA include vascular disease, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Treatment depends upon the severity of the TIA, and whether it resolves.
Where Is an Arterial Line Placed?Arterial line placement, or arterial cannulation, is a procedure typically placed in the radial artery in the forearm or the femoral artery in the thigh. It may be used to prevent complications associated with repeated arterial puncture, for continuous blood pressure monitoring, blood sampling, and for patients with heart disease, stroke, head injury, drug overdose, in a coma, and more.
Why Would You Need a Carotid Ultrasound?A carotid ultrasound test detects narrowing (stenosis) of the carotid artery that is responsible for TIAs or stroke. The carotid arteries are a pair of major blood vessels that carry blood to the brain through the neck.