Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

Recognize the Signs of Stroke

Man with a headache

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Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. A wide range of people suffer from strokes annually for a couple of different reasons. With so many individuals affected by stroke, it is important to be able to recognize potential stroke symptoms as they are happening in order to get the proper help to the victim before the damage becomes permanent. If not treated in a timely manner, stroke can cause permanent brain damage. Timely recognition of the signs of a stroke could truly be the difference between life and death for the victim.

Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) identifies several different signs and symptoms of stroke. Keep in mind, signs and symptoms of a medical issue are not the same thing. Signs can be outwardly observed by others, while symptoms are only noticed and felt by the individual actually experiencing the medical problem. Thus, a victim may be able to express symptoms that they are experiencing to you, but you may not be able to notice them for yourself. A sudden loss of balance, on the other hand, would be a sign visible to others.

If a victim suffers from any of the following signs or symptoms of stroke, you should call 911 immediately:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, 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
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Causes of Stroke Symptoms

Stroke occurs when a section of the brain is suddenly starved of oxygen. Oxygen is crucial to brain function, and any loss of oxygen can cause serious damage. Strokes can happen in two very different ways.

  • Ischemic stroke is a blockage of a blood vessel in the brain that results in death to the brain tissue. Usually, the blockage comes from a blood clot.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and causes bleeding in or around the brain.

Treatment of Stroke

A stroke is a true emergency, and therefore it qualifies as a good reason to call 911. Treatment for both types of stroke require early recognition and access to emergency medical care. Using medication to dissolve clots in ischemic stroke should happen within three hours of onset. When suspecting stroke signs or symptoms, be sure to take quick action.

  • Call 911 immediately. Be a good 911 caller and listen carefully to the call taker. Listening carefully to the 911 operator and following directions exactly can help to expedite the overall process and get help to the victim quicker.
  • Follow the ABC's of First Aid. Pay close attention to the victim's airway; stroke victims often have difficulty controlling their own airways. Make sure that the victim is breathing before undertaking any other steps.
  • Raise the victim's head. Raising the head helps decrease the pressure on the brain inside of the skull.
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