If you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms indicative of a stroke, do not wait. Call 911 emergency immediately.
There are now effective therapies for stroke that must be administered at a hospital, but they lose their effectiveness if not given within the first 3 hours after stroke symptoms appear. Every minute counts!
All of the symptoms of stroke appear suddenly, and often there is more than one symptom at the same time. Therefore stroke can usually be distinguished from other causes of dizziness or headache. These symptoms may indicate that a stroke has occurred and that medical attention is needed immediately.
The five most common symptoms of stroke are:
- Sudden weakness or numbness of the face or limbs, especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
The exact symptoms depend on where in the brain's vascular system the blockage or rupture has occurred. Strokes that predominantly affect one hemisphere of the brain are common. Since each hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body, a stroke in the left hemisphere will cause motor and sensory deficits on the right side of the body, and vice versa.
Brain cells die when they no longer receive oxygen and nutrients from the blood or when they are damaged by sudden bleeding into or around the brain.
When blood flow to the brain is interrupted, some brain cells die immediately, while others remain at risk for death. These damaged cells make up the ischemic penumbra and can linger in a compromised state for several hours. These nerve cells can often be saved with immediate treatment.
Reference: The National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke (NINDS)
Last updated: May 2, 2016.