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FAQ (Health)

 Dr. George Jacob
Heart Infocenter



Symptoms of Stroke

Symptoms of stroke may include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.

  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech

  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.

  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Symptoms of stroke appear suddenly. Often there is more than one symptom at the same time. Therefore stroke can usually be distinguished from other causes of dizziness or headache. These symptoms may indicate that a stroke has occurred and that medical attention is needed immediately.

If you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms indicative of a stroke, do not wait. Call 911 emergency immediately. There are now effective therapies for stroke that must be administered at a hospital, but they lose their effectiveness if not given within the first 3 hours after stroke symptoms appear. Every minute counts!

What should a bystander do?

If you believe someone is having a stroke (see the symptoms of stroke for details) - if he or she suddenly loses the ability to speak, or move an arm or leg on one side, or experiences facial paralysis on one side - call 911 immediately.

Act Immediately - Prompt Action Is Critical

Stroke is a medical emergency. Every minute counts when someone is having a stroke. The longer blood flow is cut off to the brain, the greater the damage. Immediate treatment can save people's lives and enhance their chances for successful recovery.

Ischemic strokes, the most common type of strokes, can be treated with a drug called tPA, that dissolves blood clots obstructing blood flow to the brain. The window of opportunity to start treating stroke patients is three hours, but to be evaluated and receive treatment, patients need to get to the hospital within 60 minutes.

However, most patients who suffer a stroke are waiting too long to get to a hospital for care, increasing the risk of serious disability or death, according to a study published in the January, 2001 edition of the journal Stroke.

Researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey found that only 46 percent of stroke patients came to a hospital within three hours, when treatment can best prevent permanent disability caused by too little blood flow to the brain. The study was conducted in 1996 and 1997 at 10 New Jersey hospitals.

Altogether, 61 percent of the 553 stroke patients studied came to a hospital within six hours of the onset of symptoms, the outer limit when doctors have a chance of preventing brain damage, paralysis and other severe effects.

"If you think you're having signs of a stroke, the first thing you should do is call 911 (or whatever is the number in your region to reach emergency medical help)," Dr. Daniel F. Hanley Jr., a professor of brain injury outcomes at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore said. "Don't call your doctor, don't ask a relative what you should do," and don't wait to see if you feel better. If someone can get you to the emergency room faster, have him/her drive you to the emergency room and get help immediately. Do not drive yourself, however.

Caution: If you suspect a stroke, seek emergency medical treatment immediately. Time is of essence.

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