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What are the Warning Signs of a Stroke?

May 31, 2017
Published in: Stroke

Abstract illustration of a person's head filled with gears

When someone is having a stroke, their brain isn't getting the adequate blood or oxygen it needs to function. Help must be given as quickly as possible so that serious and lasting problems don't occur, and to improve the chances of recovery.

Symptoms of a Stroke

A blurry kitchen, demonstrating a symptom of strokeThere are occasions when a stroke develops gradually but this is rare. In most cases, symptoms of a stroke happen suddenly. Some of the most common symptoms of a stroke are:

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially if only one side is affected
  • Confusion or difficulty understanding what other people are saying
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Trouble with vision in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty with balance, coordination, or walking
  • Dizziness
  • A sudden severe headache occurring for no known reason

Use FAST to Detect a Stroke

One of the easiest ways to check someone for symptoms of a stroke is to use the FAST test:

  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Is one side of the face drooping?
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Is one arm drifting downward?
  • Speech: Ask your loved one to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or does it sound strange?
  • Time: If you observe any of the signs above, you need to get help immediately. Call 9-1-1!

Remember, if you suspect a stroke has occurred, get help immediately to improve the victim's chances for recovery.

What to Do When a Stroke Occurs

CT scans of the head show the location of a clotA stroke is a serious medical emergency. Never wait for symptoms to resolve on their own. Every minute counts. If you or a loved one has even one symptom:

  1. Call 9-1-1 for an immediate transport to the hospital
  2. Make a mental note of when symptoms started because doctors will need to know

Even if you're not sure that the symptoms are due to a stroke, it's best to get help right away. It's important to restore blood flow after a stroke in order to avoid brain damage. Waiting for symptoms to vanish could lead to lifelong disabilities. After all, if it isn't a stroke, all that happens is an unnecessary trip to the hospital. If it is a stroke and you ignore it, the victim could die or be permanently disabled. Don't take chances.

It's Best to Be Prepared

Very few people believe a stroke will happen to them. However, with a stroke, brain damage can happen fast. This is a risk that should be taken seriously. Individuals with a medical condition or risk factors for a stroke should prepare in advance, just in case a stroke ever occurs. Some of the best ways to be prepared are to reduce the risk of a stroke by not smoking, avoiding excessive drinking, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Of course, there are some risk factors that cannot be eliminated such as age and ethnicity. In this case, it's best to discuss the situation with a doctor and come up with an action plan for treatment if a stroke does occur. There are also medications that can help reduce the risk of a stroke.

The Augusta Health Stroke Center is dedicated to providing the specialized care that stroke patients need. Visit their page to learn more about risk factors and rehabilitation options.