Getting immediate medical care during or following a stroke is critical. Here are 11 ways to tell if someone is having a stroke and what to do.
One-sided numbness, headache, and slurred speech are common signs of having a stroke. You may know how to spot these signs of stroke in yourself, but what if you’re with another person who may be having a stroke? Early identification is key to getting prompt treatment and having the best possible outcome.
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A stroke is a medical emergency. It happens when the brain does not get the blood or oxygen it needs. Without blood and oxygen, the brain cells die off, resulting in brain damage or death.
There are two types of stroke:
- Ischemic stroke: The type of stroke happens when a clot blocks the blood flow to the brain.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: This type of stroke happens when a blood vessel to the brain bursts and the brain doesn’t receive enough blood flow.
Stroke is the
A stroke can happen suddenly. Pay close attention if you notice any of the following signs of stroke in another person.
1. Asymmetrical face
A person having a stroke may lose feeling or have weakness in one side of the face/body. Look closely to see if one side of the face looks droopy or for any other obvious signs that one side of the face is not matching the other during activities like talking, chewing, or smiling.
2. Other body numbness
That weakness or loss of feeling may extend to other parts of the body as well. You may notice the person rubbing their arm or leg, hands, or feet. This is likely due to numbness or tingling, and it
A stroke may cause a severe headache that comes on
- touching the forehead or temples (from pain or pressure)
- squinting the eyes (from light sensitivity)
- groaning (from pain)
You may also ask the person if they have a headache after observing these signs.
Along with a headache, a person may be confused or have fuzzy thinking. They may have trouble finding their words when speaking to you. They may even look dazed or puzzled when you speak to them.
5. Sight issues
A stroke can make it hard to see clearly from one or both eyes. The person may bump into walls, have difficulty grabbing items nearby, or have issues with depth perception. A person who is having trouble seeing may squint or blink or rub their eyes. They may also not be able to read words in front of them.
Sudden dizziness is another
7. Balance and coordination
A stroke may cause a person to appear clumsy. This comes from balance and coordination issues. You may observe the person stumbling or dropping things. Their lack of coordination may remind you of seeing somebody who is under the influence of alcohol, but the person has not been drinking.
8. Difficulty walking
With dizziness, balance issues, one-sided numbness, and trouble seeing, a person may not be able to walk in their usual way. They may hold onto you or the wall as they try to make their way from point A to point B. Or walking may seem to take great effort, and their steps may not be steady.
9. Trouble talking
Coordination, confusion, and numbness all affect speech as well. You may hear a person slur their words or observe that their voice/speech sounds different from the norm. Try having the person repeat a basic phrase for you (for example: “My name is William.”) and note any difficulty or excessive concentration.
With all these sensations happening without warning, a person may feel panicked. Their breathing may be fast and labored. Their heart rate may rise. Their facial expressions may show they are afraid (wide eyes, raised eyebrows, lips stretched horizontally, or gritting teeth), or they may be sweaty or shaking.
11. Sudden change
Again, there’s a shared characteristic with stroke symptoms — they all come on suddenly. A person may be fine one minute and appear very different the next. Anytime you notice these symptoms — in any combination — that happen suddenly and all at once, it’s time to act F.A.S.T.
Act F.A.S.T. if someone near you is having a stroke
If you observe signs of stroke in another person, act F.A.S.T. to get immediate medical attention.
- Face: Does one side of the person’s face look droopy?
To test, ask the person to smile.
- Arms: Can the person lift both arms and keep them up?
To test, ask the person to raise both arms to see if one slowly drifts down.
- Speech: Does the person’s speech sound slurred or strange?
To test, have the person repeat a simple phrase.
- Time: If you suspect a stroke, call 911 to get help as soon as possible.
Ischemic strokes are caused by health conditions that may develop with age. The most common of these are:
- atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is a buildup of plaque in the arteries.
- atrial fibrillation (AFib): AFib is a type of irregular heartbeat that may lead to blood clots. When these blood clots travel to the brain, they may cause a stroke.
Lifestyle factors may also lead to ischemic strokes, such as:
Other risk factors for hemorrhagic stroke include:
- sedentary lifestyle
- excessive use of alcohol
Treatment for stroke depends on the type:
- Ischemic stroke: This type of stroke can be treated in the
first 3 hoursby administering thrombolytic drugs, like tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Also called “clot-busting” drugs, these medications break up the blood clots that are causing the stroke. Other treatment options for ischemic stroke include blood thinners and surgery.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: require a treatment — medication or surgery — that will stop the bleeding and preserve brain tissue. Endovascular procedures can repair damaged blood vessels for some hemorrhagic strokes.
- Ruptured aneurysm: Strokes caused by ruptured aneurysms may involve placing a metal clip on the aneurysm to stop the bleeding.
Stroke rehabilitation addresses things like:
- speech issues
- movement issues
- cognition issues
- eating issues
- bladder and bowel issues
- pain or other discomfort/sensations
- emotional issues
Recovery from stroke is individual and depends on various factors. Some people may make a full recovery. Others may be disabled in the long term or even permanently. And
In general, stroke must be treated promptly with medication, surgery, or other procedures to prevent extensive brain damage. Even with prompt treatment and rehabilitation, a person can experience mild to severe impairments.
- 10% of people recover fully
- 10% of people need care in a long-term care facility or nursing home
- 25% of people experience mild disability
- 40% of people experience moderate to severe disability
If I think someone is having a stroke, should I just drive them to the hospital?
Do strokes mostly affect older people?
The risk for stroke
Can a person have more than one stroke?
How is stroke prevented?
Experts estimate that
- heart disease
- high cholesterol
Otherwise, find support to stop smoking, end alcohol overuse, and start exercising.
If you observe the signs of stroke in another person, call 911 to get help.
Act F.A.S.T. to protect against brain damage and possibly death. You may worry that you’re making too much of certain symptoms, but it’s better to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to strokes.
Every minute counts and can impact a person’s ultimate outcome.