People at risk and partners or caretakers of people at risk for stroke should be aware of its typical symptoms. The stroke victim should get to the hospital as soon as possible after these warning signs appear. It is particularly important for people with migraines or frequent severe headaches to understand how to distinguish between their usual headaches and symptoms of stroke.
Time is of the essence in treating stroke. Studies show that patients receive faster treatment for stroke if they arrive by ambulance rather than coming to the emergency room on their own People should immediately call 911 for emergency assistance if they experience any of warning signs of stroke:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
An easy way to remember the signs of stroke, and what to do, is by the acronym "F.A.S.T." If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, the National Stroke Association's F.A.S.T. test advises:
- (F)ACE. Ask the person to smile. Check to see if one side of the face droops.
- (A)RMS. Ask the person to raise both arms. See if one arm drifts downward.
- (S)PEECH. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Check to see if words are slurred and if the sentence is repeated correctly.
- (T)IME. If a person shows any of these symptoms, time is essential. It is important to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Call 9-1-1. Act FAST.
Symptoms of TIAs and Early Ischemic Stroke
The symptoms of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) and early ischemic stroke are similar. In the case of a TIA, however, the symptoms resolve within 24 hours. Symptoms depend on where the injury in the brain occurs. The origin of the stroke is usually either the carotid or basilar arteries.
Review Date: 05/06/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.