7 Important Signs Someone Is Having a Stroke

Woman having a stroke
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Stroke symptoms can be confusing, but it is important to be able to recognize a stroke because a stroke is a medical emergency.

Strokes are "brain attacks," meaning that a stroke is caused by an interrupted blood supply to a portion of the brain. Unlike heart attacks, which are painful events, brain attacks are not usually painful. In fact, stroke symptoms can be strange or puzzling. Some studies show that as many of 30 percent of strokes go undiagnosed within the first three weeks. Strokes are actually treatable, so it is important to be able to recognize a stroke, so that you can get the right emergency treatment

How to Know If You're Having a Stroke

The following symptoms of stroke can develop either isolated or in combination.

Body weakness - If you experience weakness on one side of your face, arms, hands, or legs, you should obtain medical attention right away. 

Facial weakness - Mouth drooping, eyelid drooping, or uneven eyelids are also characteristics of a stroke. Of course, not everyone has a perfectly symmetrical face, but a change in someone you know, or an obvious asymmetry, is usually a sign of stroke.

Speech changes - Slurred speech, garbled speech, or words that do not make sense are signs of a stroke. 

Vision changes - Blurred vision, double vision, vision loss, or partial vision loss can be the sign of a stroke or another serious eye emergency. If you suspect that someone is not seeing the same objects you are seeing, you need to treat this as a medical emergency because many strokes affect vision, including strokes of the eye itself.

Falling - Balance and coordination problems caused by a stroke make it difficult to walk or to use your hands.

Sensory abnormalities - Numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation may not be as noticeable as weakness or vision changes, but it may be the only sign of a stroke. Usually, sensory deficits occur on one side of the body during a stroke.

Headaches or dizziness - These may signal a stroke or another urgent neurological condition. It is best to err on the side of caution and get medical attention right away. Time spent in deciding whether or not to obtain medical attention could end up as time wasted from getting the proper treatment.

Confusion - If you are talking to someone who becomes unusually confused, it is essential to take this seriously. 

What Should You Do If You Suspect a Stroke?

If it is possible to call 911, then you should do that right away. But, sometimes weakness, poor coordination, or vision problems make it difficult for you to call for emergency care yourself. In these situations, the best way to ask for help is to try to get the attention of people who are nearby, such as family, friends, coworkers, or even strangers if you do not know any of the people around.

The Importance of Bystanders in Stroke

Because strokes are not physically painful and because they can impair a stroke victim’s level of awareness and ability to communicate, bystanders are of more value than in any other medical emergency. Your fast response can save a life. Additionally, your observations of the stroke as it developed can play a vital role as part of the medical history, aiding the stroke care team as they determine a plan of action

How to Know if Someone Else Is Having a Stroke

If you are a companion of someone who has sudden weakness, loss of sensation, vision changes, severe dizziness, or extreme headaches, you should be aware that this could be an unstable situation and that your companion may get worse quickly. You should call for help immediately before the situation worsens.

Because a stroke can affect thinking, judgment, and insight, sometimes a stroke victim is unaware of what is happening or may not be able to describe to you what is happening. When someone else is having a stroke, you may notice some changes such as a lack of symmetry between the two sides of the face or a slumping of one side of the body. Stroke victims may be confused. In some instances, a stroke may manifest with falling.

The best response is to obtain care right away, rather than waiting to see if things get better. Whether your companion is experiencing a stroke or not, neurological symptoms are red flags and diagnosis and treatment is urgent.

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