Symptoms of Stroke


General information about symptoms of Stroke: The symptom information on this page attempts to provide a list of some possible symptoms of Stroke. This symptom information has been gathered from various sources, may not be fully accurate, and may not be the full list of symptoms of Stroke. Furthermore, symptoms of Stroke may vary on an individual basis for each patient. Only your doctor can provide adequate diagnosis of symptoms and whether they are indeed symptoms of Stroke.

List of symptoms of Stroke: The list of symptoms mentioned in various sources for Stroke includes:

Symptoms of Stroke: The symptoms of stroke are easy to spot: sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking; dizziness; or loss of balance or coordination. 1

A stroke happens when part of your brain is not getting enough blood and stops working. Depending on the part of the brain that is damaged, a stroke can cause

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of your face, arm, or leg on one side of your body.

  • Sudden confusion, trouble talking, or trouble understanding.

  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or trouble walking.

  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes or sudden double vision.

  • Sudden severe headache.

Sometimes, one or more of these warning signs may happen and then disappear. You might be having a "mini-stroke," also called a TIA (transient [TRAN-see-unt] ischemic [is-KEE-mik] attack). If you have any of these warning signs, tell your doctor right away.2

Headache may accompany several conditions that can lead to stroke, including hypertension or high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, and heart disease. Headaches are also associated with completed stroke, when brain cells die from lack of sufficient oxygen.3

Symptoms of a Stroke Include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of parts of one side of the body usually the face, arm, or leg.
  • Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye.
  • Loss of speech, or trouble talking or understanding speech.
  • Sudden, severe headaches with no known cause.
  • Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness, or sudden falls.

Not all of these symptoms occur during a stroke. Symptoms depend on the location and amount of damaged cells.4

Stroke symptoms occur suddenly (within minutes or hours) and often there are two or more symptoms. These are the most common signs of stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body

  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, including blurred or double vision

  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination

  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech

  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause, often followed by other stroke symptoms

Other important but less common stroke symptoms include sudden nausea, fever and vomiting. Fainting, convulsions or coma may also occur.

If you have or notice another person having one or more of these symptoms, call 911 and get emergency treatment right away! It is important for a person having a stroke to get to a hospital within an hour, because treatment must be started quickly to prevent death or severe brain damage. 5

A stroke in the right hemisphere of the brain often causes paralysis in the left side of the body. This is known as left hemiplegia. In addition, a stroke in this part of the brain may cause:

  • Problems with spatial and perceptual abilities. For example, the stroke survivor may misjudge distances and fall, or be unable to guide her hands to pick up an object.

  • Impaired judgment and behavior. For example, she may try to do things that she should not attempt to do, such as trying to drive a car.

  • Problems with short-term memory. Although she may be able to recount events from 30 years ago, she may be unable to remember what she ate for breakfast that morning.

Someone who has had a left hemisphere stroke may have right hemiplegia, paralysis of the right side of the body. She may also have:

  • Aphasia—speech and language problems.

  • Slow and cautious behavior, in contrast to the behavior of a right-hemisphere stroke survivor. She may need a lot of help to complete tasks.

  • Memory problems similar to those of right-hemisphere stroke survivors. For example, she may have trouble learning new information and have poor short-term memory.

A stroke that takes place in the cerebellum can cause:

  • Abnormal reflexes of the head and torso

  • Coordination and balance problems

  • Dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

Strokes that occur in the brain stem are especially devastating. The brain stem is the area of the brain that controls all of our involuntary "life-support" functions, such as breathing rate, blood pressure and heartbeat. The brain stem also controls abilities such as eye movements, hearing, speech and swallowing. Since impulses generated in the brain's hemispheres must travel through the brain stem on their way to the arms and legs, patients with a brain stem stroke may also develop paralysis in one or both sides of the body. 5

The warning signs for stroke are:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of 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

    Sometimes the warning signs last for only a few minutes and then disappear. This could be a mini-stroke, called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Although they don't last long, TIAs are a symptom of a medical problem. Don't ignore a TIA - see your doctor right away.6

    More symptoms of Stroke: In addition to the above information, to get a full picture of the possible symptoms of this condition and its related conditions, it may be necessary to examine symptoms that may be caused by complications of Stroke, underlying causes of Stroke, associated conditions for Stroke, risk factors for Stroke, or other related conditions.

    Medical articles on symptoms: These general reference articles may be of interest:

    1. excerpt from NINDS Stroke Information Page: NINDS
    2. excerpt from Keep your heart and blood vessels healthy: NIDDK
    3. excerpt from Headache - Hope Through Research: NINDS
    4. excerpt from Fact Sheet Heart Disease and Stroke in Women: NWHIC
    5. excerpt from Stroke: NWHIC
    6. excerpt from Stroke Prevention and Treatment - Age Page - Health Information: NIA

    Last revision: June 18, 2003

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