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Having a Stroke: Signs and Symptoms

Stroke can lead to paralysis, loss of speech, memory, vision, diminished reasoning—and sometimes even death. It is critical that a stroke victim receive evaluation and proper treatment quickly to minimize the injury to the brain tissue.


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

  • Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye

  • Loss of speech, or trouble talking or understanding speech

  • Sudden severe headache with no apparent cause

  • Sudden episodes of difficulty walking or unexplained dizziness or unsteadiness; especially in combination with any of the previously noted symptoms

Other less common symptoms of stroke may include sudden nausea or vomiting, fainting, confusion, seizures or coma. A transient ischemic attack (TIA), or “mini-stroke” may also occur. TIAs may be warning signs of stroke  about to occur.

Stroke victims show different symptoms depending on the type of stroke (ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke), where exactly the stroke occurs in their brain, and how acute the bleeding is. Stroke symptoms happen suddenly and simultaneously, but not all symptoms may occur.

Although strokes are usually sudden attacks, strokes can also occur over hours or several small stroke can occur over time. Symptoms then build in intensity as the stroke becomes more acute.

Get Emergency Medical Help – Every Second Counts

Call for medical help immediately if you suspect a person is having a TIA or stroke. Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center is among the few area hospitals to have a designated Comprehensive Stroke Center. Washington University stroke experts offer 24-hour rapid response stroke care.

Recognizing signs and symptoms of stroke is difficult and the symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions, such as the general signs of aging or symptoms of a heart attack. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you suspect any of the above stroke symptoms.

Time Saved is Brain Saved

Always take note of what time the stroke victim begins showing symptoms and call 9-1-1 immediately. It takes only a few seconds for the brain to stop functioning when a stroke causes a brain hemorrhage. The faster a stroke victim is treated, the less devastating the effects will be.

When the ambulance arrives, these questions will need to be answered:

  • What time did the symptoms begin?

  • Tell us about your medical history.

  • Have you had a stroke before or any bleeding inside your brain?

  • Is there any metal inside or on your body? (Radiologists will need to know this to decide if your head may be examined using an MRI machine, which uses a powerful magnet. Common metal items include pacemakers, dental work, jewelry, and hearing aids.)

  • What medicine, including supplements, do you currently take?

  • Do you suffer from a bleeding disorder?

If you suspect stroke, call 9-1-1 to activate rapid response services and transport to a Stroke Network hospital.

To find out more about the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Stroke Center, call 855.925.0631.

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