Facial drooping, word slurring, and weakness on one side of the body may be early signs of a stroke. Other possible stroke symptoms may include an intense and sudden headache, confusion, loss of balance, and changes in vision.

A cerebrovascular accident, known as a stroke, is a medical emergency. It happens when blood flow to a region of your brain is interrupted. If a region of your brain does not get enough oxygen-rich blood, neurons begin to die and permanent brain damage can occur.

Emergency medical attention as soon as you notice early signs of a stroke improves the outlook.

The two types of stroke are ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to a region of your brain. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a weakened blood vessel bursts and you experience bleeding into your brain.

A stroke may cause temporary or permanent symptoms based on how long blood flow is interrupted. Depending on the severity and area of the brain, stroke symptoms may present differently and lead to complications.

A stroke is a medical emergency

It’s important to always seek immediate medical help if you suspect any symptoms of a stroke. Don’t wait for these to “get better.”

If you get to a hospital within 2 hours of experiencing the first symptoms of a stroke, you may significantly improve your outlook and reduce the chance of permanent brain damage.

Symptoms of a stroke usually develop quickly and suddenly and without apparent cause.

If you experience a stroke, you may have one or more of the following sudden warning signs and symptoms:


Sudden weakness or numbness in one of your arms, legs, or on one side of the face is a common symptom of stroke.

Other people may notice this sign of a stroke before you do if, for example, you experience facial paralysis or drooping. They may see one of your eyelids droop or that one corner of your mouth doesn’t move.

You may notice these yourself if you smile in front of a mirror, and see that one side of your mouth or face droops (doesn’t lift as usual or as the rest of the face).

Stroke-related weakness may also manifest as you try to raise both arms. You may notice one of them doesn’t come all the way up or at all. The same thing may happen if you try to raise one of your knees.

Depending on the severity, a stroke may also manifest as paralysis on one side of your body (inability to move one side).

Mental confusion and speech difficulties

A stroke may cause sudden confusion and disorientation. You may have difficulty understanding what others tell you or may become disoriented, not knowing where you are or what you are doing.

You may try to speak and the words may come out different. How you sound may surprise you or you may not be aware you’re not speaking coherently.

If you try to repeat what you were saying, making an effort to pronounce correctly or form a sentence, you may not be able to. Slurring words is a common early sign of a stroke.

Changes in vision

Loss of vision, blurred vision, or difficulty seeing in one or both eyes may be symptoms of a stroke.

You may try to focus on an object and see it double or blurred, for example. You could also completely or partially “see black” as if the lights were out.

Some types of stroke may lead to amaurosis fugax, a temporary and painless loss of vision in one eye that may feel as if a curtain was coming down in front of your eye.

Loss of balance and coordination

Muscular weakness on one side may lead you to experience loss of balance and coordination.

You may feel dizzy, as if the room was moving around you, and could trip or fall as you try to move.

You could also have trouble walking straight in a line or managing going up or down the stairs.

If you’re sitting down, you may have trouble getting up or may do so and fall back again.


A stroke may cause a severe headache that develops suddenly. You may feel the pain on a specific spot of your head or it may be widespread. This is more common among people experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke.

If you have a history of migraine, it may be difficult to identify a headache or changes in vision as signs of stroke. Some people with migraine with aura may have stroke-like symptoms, and some people experiencing a stroke may have migraine-like symptoms.

Your headache may be accompanied by dizziness or vomiting.

If you have migraine, it may be a good idea to talk with a doctor about how to know if a headache is related to a stroke.

How long do stroke symptoms last?

Stroke symptoms typically last until you receive medical care. If the damage to the brain is permanent, you may have post-stroke symptoms as well. Untreated strokes may also lead to death.

Ministrokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) may resolve on their own within 24 hours. A TIA involves a temporary block to blood flow within the brain that causes similar symptoms to a stroke. Symptoms may resolve once blood flow is restored on its own.

If you have one or more TIAs, you may experience stroke symptoms over the course of hours or days before symptoms improve. However, TIAs are a medical emergency and require care as soon as you experience the first symptoms.

One of the reasons is that sometimes a stroke follows one or more TIAs and seeing a doctor may reduce the chance of this occurrence. Only a doctor can determine if you’re having a stroke or a TIA.

Was this helpful?

If you’re having a stroke, you may experience one or multiple symptoms. Although you’re likely to recognize odd symptoms or feel like something isn’t quite right with your body, you may not realize it is a stroke until it’s too late. You may blame sudden symptoms on stress, migraine, viruses, or anxiety.

If you have a ministroke or TIA, symptoms may be temporary and usually improve within hours. However, these symptoms are often similar to the ones of a stroke, and you may not know the difference until a doctor sees you. If it is a stroke, waiting it out for hours to see if it resolves may lead to permanent brain damage.

Fast action improves the odds of recovering fully after the stroke. It may also reduce the severity of challenges that can result from it.

It’s a good idea for you and your loved ones to learn a simple FAST test that can help you identify the signs of a stroke:

  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Look for signs of drooping on one side of the face, including mouth and eyelids.
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both their arms. Look for a downward drift or difficulty lifting one arm.
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a phrase and notice if they slur any words. For example, you could have them say, “The early bird catches the worm.”
  • Time: Waste no time. Immediately call your local emergency services or head to a nearby hospital if you or someone you know shows these or other signs of a stroke.

Read all about stroke risk factors and prevention.

Knowing the symptoms of stroke can help you get help quickly and improve your outlook.

Early stroke treatment can improve your outcome and decrease the chance of serious complications, which may include:

  • facial paralysis
  • permanent muscle weakness on one side of the body
  • difficulty swallowing
  • loss of bladder control
  • speech challenges
  • memory loss and dementia
  • difficulty thinking
  • recurrent seizures
  • loss of vision and hearing
  • pain, numbness, or tingling sensations
  • changes in behavior or mood

Learn more about stroke treatments and outlook.

Signs of a stroke may include slurring words, experiencing weakness in one side of the body, having mental confusion, and losing balance and coordination. A severe headache is also possible. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or others, immediate medical care may save a life and prevent permanent brain damage.

Doing the FAST test may help identify stroke signs: Face drooping, Arm weakness on one side, Speech difficulty (including comprehension), and Timely getting emergency care.

Learn more about cerebrovascular accidents (strokes).