If you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke, phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.
Even if the symptoms disappear while you're waiting for the ambulance, it's still important to go to hospital for an assessment.
After an initial assessment, you may need to be admitted to hospital for a more in-depth assessment. Specialist treatment may also begin if this is necessary.
Symptoms of a stroke that disappear quickly and in less than 24 hours may mean you had a transient ischaemic attack (TIA). These symptoms should also be treated as a medical emergency to reduce the chances of having another stroke.
Recognising the signs of a stroke
The signs and symptoms of a stroke vary from person to person, but usually begin suddenly.
As different parts of your brain control different parts of your body, your symptoms will depend on the part of your brain affected and the extent of the damage.
The main stroke symptoms can be remembered with the word F.A.S.T.:
- Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
- Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
- Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.
- Time – it's time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.
It's important for everyone to be aware of these signs and symptoms, particularly if you live with or care for somebody in a high-risk group, such as someone who is elderly or has diabetes or high blood pressure.
Other possible symptoms
Symptoms in the F.A.S.T. test identify most strokes, but occasionally a stroke can cause different symptoms.
Other symptoms and signs may include:
- complete paralysis of one side of the body
- sudden loss or blurring of vision
- difficulty understanding what others are saying
- problems with balance and co-ordination
- difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- a sudden and very severe headache resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
- loss of consciousness
However, there may be other causes for these symptoms.
Transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
The symptoms of a TIA, also known as a mini-stroke, are the same as a stroke, but tend to only last between a few minutes and a few hours before disappearing completely.
Although the symptoms do improve, a TIA should never be ignored as it's a serious warning sign of a problem with the blood supply to your brain. It means you're at an increased risk of having a stroke in the near future.
If you've had a TIA, contact your GP, local hospital or out-of-hours service as soon as possible.