Signs and Symptoms

Woman with long, dark brown hair.

The key to recognizing a sign of stroke is that symptoms appear suddenly. Stroke warning signs are signals the body sends when the brain is not receiving enough oxygen.

Disrupt stroke before it disrupts your — or someone else’s—life. Recognize the signs and, the moment you see any of them, call 9-1-1. Getting to a hospital quickly saves lives and increases the chances for successful recovery.

FaceDroopingFArmWeaknessASpeechDifficultySTime toCall 911T


What to Do if You Think Someone Is Having a Stroke

The best stroke treatments can only be used within four and a half hours of the first symptoms. It is important to do everything you can to get the person to the hospital in time. If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do the following test:

F - Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A - Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S - Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?

T - Time: If you see any of these three signs, call 9-1-1 right away.

Pay attention and note the time when the person first starts showing symptoms. This will help doctors determine the best treatment. A person having a stroke should not drive to the hospital themselves or have someone else drive them. Taking an ambulance will allow medical personnel to begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.

The window of opportunity to start treatment for ischemic strokes, the most common type, is four and a half hours. But all people who suspect a stroke, even people who wake up with symptoms need to get to the hospital as soon as possible to be evaluated and receive treatment since some people benefit from treatment up to 24 hours after a stroke.

Other Stroke Signs

Call 9-1-1 immediately if one or more of the following symptoms appear suddenly.

Symptom Description
Sudden Numbness Numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden Confusion Trouble speaking, or trouble understanding speech
Sudden Trouble Seeing Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden Trouble Walking Dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
Sudden Severe Headache Severe headache with no known cause

More rarely, people having a stroke may have disorientation or memory loss, drowsiness, double vision, nausea, dizziness, or vomiting.

Why You Need To Act Fast

Stroke cuts off blood to the brain.

The longer a stroke is untreated, the more damage it causes. Do not drive the person to a hospital--call 9-1-1 immediately. Getting to a hospital quickly saves lives and increases the chances of successful recovery.

A five-year study by NINDS found that some stroke patients who received the stroke medication t-PA within three hours of the start of stroke symptoms were at least 30% more likely to recover with little or no disability after three months.

Stroke Signs Are Often Missed

A person having a stroke may not realize they’re having a stroke, or may ignore the signs. The stroke itself can also make the person unaware of the problem (called anosagnosia). Bystanders may think the person just looks unaware or confused. Even when people know there is a problem, they may not be able to call for emergency help on their own. A person having a stroke has the best chance of recovery if someone around them recognizes the signs and acts fast.


Don’t Ignore Symptoms That Go Away Quickly

If stroke symptoms go away after a few minutes, it may be a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also sometimes called a “mini-stroke.” Although brief, a TIA is a sign of a serious condition that will not go away without medical help.

Unfortunately, because TIAs clear up, many people ignore them. But paying attention to a TIA can save your life. If you think you or someone you know has had a TIA, tell a healthcare team about the symptoms right away.

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