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Stroke Signs and Symptoms

Warning signs of stroke

A smiling mature woman in her kitchen represents the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke.

Warning signs of stroke

Because stroke requires rapid assessment and treatment, time is critical to prevent permanent brain damage and long-term disability. In some cases, stroke may be fatal. 

One of your best defenses against stroke is knowledge. This includes knowing:

  • A quick way to check for stroke symptoms
  • Other signs of stroke that can be easy to miss
  • What to do if you’re experiencing stroke symptoms

How to spot stroke symptoms

Signs of stroke come on suddenly. The acronym FAST can help you remember the signs of a stroke. FAST stands for:

  • F is for face drooping — one side of the person’s face droops or is numb
  • A is for arm weakness — one of the person’s arms is weak, numb or doesn’t move at all
  • S is for speech difficulty — the person slurs or has difficulty forming words
  • T is for time to call 911 — if the person shows any of these symptoms

Other signs of stroke

Remembering the acronym FAST may help you identify a stroke, but not everyone has the same symptoms. Other stroke signs may include:

  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body, not just the face or arms
  • Confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Difficulty seeing with one or both eyes
  • Difficulty walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

Symptoms appear without warning because a stroke is the sudden disruption in blood flow to the brain. Stroke symptoms can also sometimes go away, which could be a transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke). Learn more about the causes and types of stroke.

What to do about stroke warning signs

Call 9-1-1 immediately if a person shows any stroke symptoms, even if the symptoms go away. Tell the 9-1-1- operator, “I think this is a stroke” to help get you to the hospital immediately. Time is very important. The longer it takes to get help, the more damage is done to the brain.

Learn what to expect from stroke diagnosis and treatment.