How serious is a stroke

How to recognize a stroke

If stroke happens to you or a person you are with you’ll want to know how to recognize it and what to do.

Stroke symptoms are sudden and can include some, or all, of the symptoms listed below.

Common symptoms of stroke:

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

Sudden trouble speaking or understanding

Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

Sudden confusion

Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

In some cases, the Face Arm Speech Test (FAST)  may help you to establish if the person has experienced a stroke.

Face Arm Speech Test (FAST) 

Follow these 3 simple steps to help you recognize whether someone might have had a stroke:

Facial weakness – Can the person smile? Has their mouth or an eye drooped?

Arm weakness – Can the person use both arms?

Speech problems – Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?

Test these three signs

If the answer is ‘YES’ to any of these signs, call for emergency medical help URGENTLY!

However, a stroke may have occurred even if the FAST is negative.

Get medical help urgently

If you suspect a person has suffered a stroke, call for emergency medical help urgently!

Don’t delay because the sooner a stroke patient receives medical care, the better their chance of recovery.

Transient ischemic attack

  • A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when the brain’s blood supply is stopped, eg by a blood clot, for a very short period of time.
  • The symptoms of a TIA are similar to those of a stroke but only last a few minutes or hours, and are completely clear within 24 hours.
  • Don’t ignore a TIA! It is a warning sign that the brain is not getting enough blood. This means there is a greater chance of having a stroke in the future.

If you, or anyone you know, experiences a TIA get medical help quickly. Your doctor may give you a regular medication that will help to protect you from having a stroke.

Hospital assessment of stroke

Most stroke patients enter hospital through the emergency department.

The medical team may assess where the stroke is, how serious it is and what caused it, in which case the medical team will review the patient’s medical history and use a series of tests to assess the:

  • cause of the stroke, which may include a blood pressure check and heart and lung tests
  • area of the brain affected by the stroke, which may include a brain scan
  • seriousness of the stroke, which may include physical and neurological checks and blood tests.

Not every hospital will have the facilities to conduct a brain scan. Where it is available, it may be requested by the doctor in charge of the patient’s assessment.

The patient will then remain in hospital while recovering from the stroke, and until being well enough to leave.