A stroke is a medical emergency. As such, swift action must be taken to ensure that medical attention is given to someone suffering a stroke as soon as possible. Being aware of what to look out for when it comes to the signs and symptoms of a stroke is vital.
It’s just as important to know the length of time a person experienced symptoms, as it is to know what warning signs to look out for. Many symptoms appear to develop suddenly (although they have been developing gradually, it’s possible to only notice signs in someone else or yourself when they’re at their peak).
The most common signs of a stroke are:
- Confusion or difficulties with thinking and understanding (or comprehending something happening at the time)
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty understanding speech
- Loss of balance or coordination (poor ability to walk)
- Sudden numbness, body weakness or paralysis (drooping) in the arms, legs or face (particularly on one side of the body)
- Vision problems in one or both eyes (blurry or blackened vision, and sometimes double vision)
- Sudden, severe headache (a person having a stroke as a result of rupture and bleeding may experience this and lose consciousness very quickly)
- Neck stiffness
- Dizziness (sometimes followed by a complete collapse)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Altered consciousness or loss of consciousness (this can happen quickly or may happen for a brief period of time)
In severe instances a person can also:
- Become rigid (the entire body)
- Or slip into a coma
A good way to react to any signs of stroke is to remember the acronym FAST and follow the below method:
- F: The first thing to do when you suspect a person is having a stroke is to assess the person’s face. Is one side of the face drooping? When you ask them to, can the person smile (with both sides of their mouth)?
- A: Next, assess the person’s arms. Are they able to raise both arms and hold them in the air? Is the person unable to raise one arm? When up, does one arm fall downwards immediately?
- S: Try and speak to the person. A good way to assess their speech ability is to ask them to repeat a simple phrase, such as “the sky is so very blue today” or “the early bird catches the worm”. Is the person able to repeat the sentence or do they sound strange (are they slurring their words)?
- T: This step is vital and relates to time. If any of the aforementioned signs are apparent, ensure that you call for medical assistance immediately. It is just as important to ensure that you assess a person’s face, arms and speech as quickly as possible and do not allow too much time to pass in between. If the person is indeed having a stroke, every second is crucial. You should not linger to ‘see if they begin to feel better’. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the higher the risk for brain damage and lasting complications or disability. While you wait for emergency services, do not leave a person alone and watch them carefully so that you can pass on any potentially important information for effective treatment.
If you, yourself begin to feel like something is wrong and suspect a stroke, you will need to react just as quickly, taking odd symptoms and sensations very seriously. Sometimes you may not even realise why you’re feeling strange until it may be too late to react (only reacting some-time later when your condition suddenly worsens).
Symptoms of stroke may develop slowly during the course of a few hours or even days. You could experience a TIA (mini-stroke) before you do a major one. Being aware of any unusual symptoms that may be indicative of a stroke could mean the difference between life or death, in extreme instances.
Symptoms of a TIA (transient ischemic attack) should be taken as seriously as a major stroke even though you may begin to feel better within an hour or two. It’s easy to put odd sensations down to something stressful that may be going on in your life at the time and impacting your physical state, but a TIA may be a stern warning of something seriously wrong. A major stroke can follow at any time and is better treated well ahead of an emergency situation. It is best to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect a TIA. If you have indeed suffered a mini-stroke, appropriate treatment within a few hours can prevent a major stroke from happening, and ultimately could save your life.
For any type of stroke, fast action can help to improve odds of a better recovery and reduce the likelihood of disabilities caused by extensive damage. Severe damage can happen incredibly quickly once symptoms have developed. There is no time to spare. It’s vitally important to get assistance with either getting yourself or someone else having a stroke to a hospital immediately.