Signs of Stroke

ParamedicKnow Your Signs

It takes only a minute to learn the signs of stroke — and someday, it could save your life.

According to the American Stroke Association, the major signs of stroke are:

  • 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

On occasion, all the signs and symptoms of an acute stroke are present, but then go away quickly and completely. This is called a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. This is still considered a medical emergency, and the person should get to the emergency room immediately. TIAs are warning signs of stroke, and the stroke may often occur within the first 24 hours after the TIA.

You should also be able to recognize the signs of stroke in others. Severe stroke sufferers may be too impaired to recognize their own signs, which means they’ll depend on you for help. And timing is everything. The sooner you notice someone may be suffering from stroke, the better his or her chances of recovery.

The F.A.S.T. test is an easy way to remember and recognize the signs of stroke in others:

Act F.A.S.T.

F = FACE - Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop?

A = ARMS - Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = SPEECH - Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred? Can he or she repeat the sentence correctly?

T = TIME - If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is important. Call 911 and get to the hospital fast. Brain cells are dying.

If you recognize any of the signs of stroke in yourself or someone you know, call 911 or go to the nearest St.Vincent Emergency Room immediately. Every minute stroke goes untreated could mean the loss of nearly two million brain cells.

Find out more about stroke, stroke risk factors, and stroke care in our FAQs.