What are Some Stroke Warning Signs?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 December 2018
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There are five well-known stroke warning signs that you should be aware of. The sudden onset of any of these symptoms is a strong indicator of a stroke and immediate medical attention is required. The warning signs are: weakness of the face, arm, or leg; mental confusion; vision trouble in one or both eyes; difficulty walking; or a sudden intense headache with no known cause.

Sudden onset is defined as a noticeable change that occurs in less than two hours. A common source of confusion in identifying a stroke warning sign is because the symptoms are very common. Many people have experienced similar symptoms due to simple fatigue or a host of other illnesses. The critical component to identifying a stroke is the speed of system appearance. Memorize these warning signs and call 911 immediately if you recognize them in yourself or others.

The most obvious of all the stroke warning signs is a sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body. Many people recognize this as being stroke-related, as this symptom is very common in stroke victims. Sudden numbness can mimic the sensation that occurs when your arm or leg falls asleep. A simple test is to wiggle your toes or fingers. If you cannot wiggle them, or if the movement is delayed, seek medical attention.


The onset of confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding is often misunderstood as drunkenness, fatigue or the side effect of other medication. The person who is experiencing these stroke warning signs may not be able to communicate what is happening, but will be very frightened. The fear is caused by the speed of the decline and the loss of communication.

Any sudden changes in vision, dizziness, or the development of a severe headache can be easily misdiagnosed as a migraine or cluster headache. It is important to remember that these types of headaches very rarely appear in adults with no prior history. A migraine or cluster headache is always accompanied by nausea or vomiting. The vast majority of strokes do not include nausea.

A stroke is caused by an interruption in blood flow in the brain. As the brain is starved for nutrients, the brain matter begins to die, which in turn causes the sudden onset of symptoms. A stroke can occur anywhere in the brain. The location of the brain affected determines the symptoms.

Treatment for a stroke clears the blockage in the brain and encourages blood flow as quickly as possible. Speed of response is the most important factor in minimizing the impact of a stroke. A stroke patient who receives appropriate treatment within one to two hours of the onset of symptoms has an 80 to 90 percent chance of a full recovery. Seek medical attention as soon as you see any stroke warning signs, as brain damage is irreversible.



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