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Spotting a stroke: What you need to know



If you believe you or another individual is having a stroke, it is of vital essence that you act quickly.

Studies have shown that for every minute a stroke goes untreated 1.9 million neurons die each minute in which stroke is untreated.

There are five types of stroke, those being: Ischemic Stroke, Haemorrhagic Stroke, Transient Ischemic Attack (Mini-Stroke), Brain Stem Stroke and Cryptogenic Stroke (stroke of unknown cause).

How to spot the main symptoms of stroke

The current advice for recognising the main symptoms of a stroke is F-A-S-T.

Face – The face might have dropped on one side, leaving the person unable to smile, or in some cases their eye or mouth may have dropped.

Arms – The person might not be able to lift both arms and keep them in place, due to the weakness or numbness in one arm.

Speech – Speech may become slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all. Also, despite appearing to look awake, the person may have problems understanding what is being said to them.

Time – It’s time to dial the emergency services immediately, dial 999 if you notice any of these symptoms.

It is important for everyone to know the signs and symptoms of a stroke, especially if you live or care for someone who is in a high risk group, such as someone who is elderly or has diabetes or high blood pressure.

Other symptoms to look out for

The symptoms in FAST cover most strokes, but in some cases a stroke can cause different symptoms.

These may include:

  • Sudden loss or blurring of vision 
  • Complete paralysis of one side of the body
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty of understand of what is being said
  • Issues with balance or co-ordination
  • Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia
  • Sudden and very severe headache, which results in a blinding pain like nothing experienced before
  • Loss of consciousness

However, there may be other causes of these symptoms.

What are mini strokes?

Transient Ischemic Attacks, also known as mini-strokes, share the same symptoms with a stroke, though they tend to only last between a few minutes and a few hours before disappearing completely.

Despite the fact symptoms improve, a TIA should never be ignored, as it is a serious warning sign that there is a problem with the blood supply to your brain.

This means that you are also at an increased risk of having a stroke in the near future.

It is important to contact emergency services immediately and ask for an ambulance if you or someone else have TIA or stroke symptoms.

Furthermore, if the symptoms disappear whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive, you should still attend the hospital to have an assessment done.

Within 24 hours of the start of your symptoms, you should be referred to a specialist.

The NHS advise that if you believe you have had a TIA before, with symptoms that have since disappeared and you did not seek medical advice at the time, you should make an urgent appointment with your GP.