Stroke: Signs and Symptoms Everyone Should Know

Stroke is the number three cause of death and leading cause of serious, long-term disability in America. Dr. Sangeeta Patil, a board-certified internal medicine physician with the Baptist Medical Group, explains the signs and symptoms of stroke that everyone should know.

What is a stroke?

Stroke is a disease that affects the blood flow to the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel bringing blood and oxygen to the brain gets blocked or ruptures so brain cells don’t get the flow of blood that they need. Deprived of oxygen, nerve cells can’t function and die within minutes. And when nerve cells don’t function, the part of the body they control can’t function either. The devastating effects of stroke are often permanent because dead brain cells can’t be replaced.

What is a TIA?

Transient ischemic (TRAN-see-ynt-is-KE-mik) attack, also known as TIA is a “mini-stroke” that occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery for a short time. The symptoms of a TIA are like the warning signs of a stroke, but they usually only last a few minutes. About 10 percent of strokes are preceded by TIA’s. TIA’s are strong predictors of stroke risk. 

Why should I care about stroke?

The good news about stroke is that it’s largely preventable. Research has shown that you can take steps to prevent stroke by reducing and controlling your risk factors. More than 4.7 million people who have had strokes are alive today and much is being done to treat strokes and stop them in their tracks. If you act fast and seek emergency treatment right away, you could reduce disabilities caused by stroke.

What are the warning signs of stroke?

You and your family should recognize the warning signs of stroke. You may have some or all of these signs. Note the time when symptoms start and call 9-1-1. Don’t ignore these warning signs, even if they go away! Timing is very important and an emergency medicine doctor must treat you within three hours of the onset of symptoms.

Warning signs include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the 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