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Stroke Symptoms and Warning Signs

The American Stroke Association Off Site Icon reminds you that stroke is a medical emergency. Know these stroke symptoms and warning signs and teach them to others. Every second counts:

  • 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

If you experience one or more of these signs, don't delay!

Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number.

Check the time and note when the first stroke symptoms appeared. Immediate action is vital; as a  clot-busting drug (tissue plasminogen activator or tPA) may be given within 4.5 hours of the onset of symptoms for those patients who meet the medical criteria, which can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.

Recognize “warning strokes” or “mini-strokes” (known as transient ischemic attack or TIA.) TIAs produce stroke-like symptoms, but the short duration of symptoms and lack of permanent brain injury is the main difference between TIA and stroke. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce your risk of a major stroke.

Stroke symptoms and warning signs may last only a few minutes and then go away.

Act F.A.S.T. Recovery from a stroke is most successful if treatment begins within the first 4.5 hours after symptoms appear for those patients who meet the medical criteria.

F.A.S.T. refers to:

  • FACE – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • ARMS – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • SPEECH – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence (e.g. "It's sunny today."). Are the words slurred? Can the person repeat the sentence correctly?
  • TIME – If a person shows any symptoms, time is important. Call 9-1-1 immediately.

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