Conditions That Can Cause Stroke-Like Symptoms

Strokes occur when the blood supply to any region of the brain is interrupted or reduced. They can cause brain damage in the form of long-lasting physical handicaps and difficulty with communication and thinking.

The most common symptoms of stroke, including facial drooping, arm or leg numbness or weakness, and speech difficulties, are actually very similar to those of other medical conditions. It's important to know what conditions have symptoms that mimic those of a stroke to ensure appropriate treatment.

This article reviews other conditions that mimic stroke and have stroke-like symptoms.

conditions that cause stroke-like symptoms

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Conditions that can mimic a stroke include the following:


Seizures are episodes of abnormal brain activity. Although most people are familiar with the type of seizures that cause unconsciousness and violent body shakes (grand mal seizures), there are other types of seizures that resemble strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIA). Sometimes seizures do not involve shaking episodes or unconsciousness, but instead can produce less dramatic stroke-like symptoms, such as weakness in one arm or leg or lack of alertness.

There are a number of similarities and differences between a stroke and a seizure, and as such it could take your healthcare provider a little while to determine whether you suffered from a mild seizure or a stroke.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are painful, often debilitating headaches that affect a large percentage of the population. Most migraine headaches are characterized by pain in the head, neck, and shoulders.

Some types of migraines, however, are accompanied by symptoms that can be confused with TIA (mini-stroke), including temporary facial paralysis, vertigo, blurry vision, and weakness or numbness in the arms or legs. These similarities can make it difficult to distinguish migraine from a stroke.

If you suspect a stroke, call 911 or rush to your nearest emergency room. The sooner a stroke can be diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.


Dizziness is a very common feeling than can be associated with a host of different medical conditions, making it a vague symptom. The dizziness associated with a stomach virus can be the same level of dizziness one might feel as the result of a stroke. Because of this, it is important to seek medical attention if you experience sudden or persistent dizziness.

Due to the range of medical illnesses that can cause dizziness, it could take some time and testing before your healthcare provider is able to figure out the true cause of your dizziness.

Facial Weakness or Pain

Facial weakness can be a very concerning symptom, as it is one of the hallmark signs of a stroke. If you have facial weakness, or see that someone else has facial weakness, it is important to get urgent medical attention right away.

While it is often associated with stroke, sudden facial weakness can be the sign of a fairly common condition called​ Bell's Palsy. This condition often improves on its own, but you might need some medication to help you as you recover if you are diagnosed with Bell's Palsy. Another condition, trigeminal neuralgia, characterized by excruciating facial pain, may also mimic a stroke.

Nerve Tingling

Nerve tingling can be the sign of a stroke, but it also may be the sign of a condition called neuropathy, a condition involving damage or dysfunction of the nerves.

While stroke and neuropathy share some symptoms, it is important to know that a stroke is a medical emergency while neuropathy is not. The medical treatment for neuropathy is also completely different from that of a stroke.

Weird Symptoms

Strange symptoms, such as deja vu and ringing in your ears, can be very disturbing. Often, these symptoms turn out to be caused by medical problems that are not stroke, but it is nonetheless important to seek medical attention for any bizarre or baffling symptoms. These symptoms could turn out to be the sign of a health problem.

A Word From Verywell

Not all neurological symptoms are an indication of serious disease, but if you do experience neurological signs or symptoms such as head pain, weakness, numbness, confusion, dizziness, or trouble communicating, it is important to seek medical attention right away.

In fact, even the most highly trained medical professionals will often spend time carefully evaluating your problem before concluding that it is not serious, because the consequences of a real neurological emergency can be quite significant.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Stroke Association. About stroke.

  2. Dekeyzer S, Vanden Bossche S, Keereman V, Hemelsoet D, Van Driessche V. Stroke versus seizure - Perfusion computerized tomography in a patient with aphasia. J Belg Soc Radiol. 2015;99(2):85-89. doi:10.5334/jbr-btr.880

  3. Terrin A, Toldo G, Ermani M, Mainardi F, Maggioni F. When migraine mimics stroke: A systematic review. Cephalalgia. 2018;38(14):2068-2078. doi:10.1177/0333102418767999

  4. Mullen MT, Loomis C. Differentiating facial weakness caused by Bell’s palsy vs. acute strokeJournal of Emergency Medical Services. 2014;39(5).

Additional Reading

By Jose Vega MD, PhD
Jose Vega MD, PhD, is a board-certified neurologist and published researcher specializing in stroke.