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What are the Signs of a Stroke?

By R. Anacan
Updated Feb 05, 2024
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A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is reduced or interrupted. The lack of oxygen flowing to the brain creates an immediate and potentially life-threatening situation, since brain cells start to die just minutes after the flow of blood is reduced. It has been estimated that there are 600,000 reported cases of stroke in the United States and it is the third leading cause of death. Even when a stroke does not result in death, its effects include paralysis, problems with speaking, and loss of motor skills and coordination.

There are two main causes of a stroke. The first occurs when an artery to the brain is clogged or blocked. This is known as an ischemic stroke and is the cause of 80% of all strokes. An ischemic stroke can often be treated with a drug that can dissolve the blood clots that are blocking the artery. However, medical treatment must take place within three hours of the start of the stroke and only three to five percent of patients reach the hospital in time to be eligible for this drug treatment. Therefore, it is very important that individuals know the signs of a stroke so they are able to take action as soon as possible.

The second cause of a stroke is a ruptured artery that breaks and leaks blood into the brain. This is known as a hemorrhagic stroke and occurs in approximately 20% of all stroke cases. As with an ischemic stroke, someone experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke requires immediate medical attention.

Because a stroke affects the brain, the person who is experiencing a stroke may be unaware that it is happening. The best chance for a stroke victim may be for those around the victim to know the signs of a stroke. Once the signs of a stroke are identified and recognized, medical treatment can be initiated. Symptoms of a stroke generally appear suddenly and quickly.

If any of the following signs of a stroke are observed, seek immediate medical attention.

• Numbness, weakness on the side of the face, arm or leg, especially when it affects one side of the body.
• Trouble walking, nausea, dizziness, or lack of coordination, motor skills and/or balance.
• Slurred speech and/or trouble speaking.
• Sudden severe headache.
• Sudden confusion and/or trouble understanding.
• Blurred, doubled vision and/or loss of vision.

While a stroke generally occurs without previous warning, one possible sign of an impending stroke is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). During a TIA, a person experiences the same symptoms and signs of a stroke but the symptoms generally last for a shorter duration. While the signs of a TIA may disappear within a few minutes or a few hours, it is very important that the person who experiences a TIA see a doctor immediately as it may indicate an increased risk for a stroke.

It cannot be emphasized enough that if any of the symptoms and signs of a stroke are observed, medical help should be summoned immediately. Survival and successful recovery from a stroke are dependent on the speed in which the victim receives medical attention.

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Discussion Comments
By leilani — On Apr 10, 2009

Apparently there is about a 90 minute time frame, from the start of symptoms to when the medical attention is given that will determine the outcome of the stroke.

If help is not given during that critical time, the result of the stroke might be permanent.

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