Early symptoms of stroke

stroke symptoms

Although it is usually a sudden occurrence, there may be early symptoms of stroke that can develop over hours and days. These symptoms are known collectively as transient ischemic attack (TIA) and often last less than one or two hours, though they may also last for up to 24 hours. The signs of stroke are the same as those of TIA. There is no telling whether a person is having one or the other; in either case, emergency medical care should be summoned. The type of symptoms is based on the type of stroke as well as the area of the brain affected, but they include the following:

·         Weakness.

·         Numbness or paralysis of the face, arms, or legs, in particular on one side of the body.

·         Confusion.

·         Difficulty speaking or understand speech.

·         Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes.

·         Difficulty breathing.

·         Dizziness.

·         Difficulty walking.

·         Balance or coordination problems.

·         Unexplained falls.

·         Loss of consciousness.

·         Severe headache without a known cause.

A transient ischemic attack occurs when blood flow to the brain is obstructed for a short period. Though it may last less than five minutes, a TIA is a warning of a major stroke in the near future. Over a third of people who have a TIA have a major stroke within a year’s time if they are not treated, and 10% to 15% will have a major stroke within 90 days of a TIA. There are two types of major strokes; ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.

Types of stroke

·         Ischemic stroke

The most common type of stroke, it takes place where an obstruction – usually a blood clot – clogs an artery that carries oxygen-rich blood to the brain. The blood clot may form in the artery (thrombus) or travel to the artery via the bloodstream (embolus).

·         Hemorrhagic stroke

It occurs when an artery leaks blood or ruptures inside the brain (intracerebral) or on the brains surface (subarachnoid). The leakage of blood swells the brain and increases pressure in the skull, which damages brain cells and tissues.


In addition to TIA, there are certain factors that increase the risk of suffering a major stroke, such as:

·         High blood pressure.

·         Smoking.

·         Diabetes.

·         Heart disease (coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation).

·         Brain aneurysm.

·         Ateriovenous malformations.

·         Age and sex (men are more likely than women to have a stroke at younger ages, but women are more likely to die from a stroke).

·         Race (African American, Alaska Native, and American Indian).

·         Personal or family history of stroke or TIA.

·         Alcohol.

·         Illegal drugs.

·         Dangerous cholesterol levels.

·         Sedentary lifestyle.

·         Poor diet.

·         Obesity.

·         Stress and depression.

·         Medical conditions (sickle cell anemia, vasculitis, bleeding disorders).

Several of these risk factors are controllable. Whether or not you’ve had a stroke, you can prevent one by following these pieces of advice:

Stroke prevention

·         Do not smoke

Smoking tobacco can harm and narrow blood vessels.

·         Eat a healthy diet

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. Foods low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber. Limiting salt.

·         Keep a healthy weight

Losing weight can help overweight people reduce the risk of stroke.

·         Exercise

2½ hours of moderate exercise a week, per the Surgeon General’s recommendation.

·         Limit alcohol

No more than 2 drinks for men and 1 drink for women a day. Excess alcohol can increase blood pressure.


Unfortunately, some people may experience the early symptoms of stroke even if they don’t have any known risk factors. Time is of the essence if a stroke does occur; still, some of that time should be devoted to confirm whether someone is indeed having a stroke. A doctor has multiple tools with which to make a diagnosis, including:

·         Medical history.

·         Physical exam.

·         Brain computed tomography.

·         Magnetic resonance imaging.

·         Computed Tomography Arteriogram and Magnetic Resonance Arteriogram.

·         Carotid ultrasound.

·         Carotid angiography.

·         Electrocardiogram.

·         Echocardiography.

·         Blood tests.

Bystanders should learn to spot the signs as well. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, acting FAST is essential to determine whether someone is suffering a stroke and they need medical help.





Face. Ask the person to smile to see if one side of the face droops.

Arms. Ask them to raise both arms to see if one arm drifts downward.

Speech. Ask them to repeat a simple phrase to hear if their speech is slurry or strange.

Time. Call 911 immediately if you see any of these signs.


The best treatment for stroke is an injection of a thrombolytic drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). This drug breaks up blood clots in the arteries of the brain and improves the chances of recovery while lowering the odds of disability or that the patient will need long-term care in a nursing home. The catch is that the person has to be taken to the hospital in 60 minutes or less and administered the drug within 3-4 hours. Other treatment options are antiplatelet medicines, anticoagulants, endovascular procedures, and surgery.

A stroke can result in many complications, for example:

·         Paralysis.

·         Weakness.

·         Problems with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory.

·         Difficulty understanding or forming speech.

·         Numbness.

·         Strange sensations.

·         Pain in the hands and feet that intensifies with movement and temperature changes.

·         Difficulty chewing and swallowing.

·         Bladder and bowel control difficulties.

·         Depression.

 However, rehabilitation and therapy can help the patient address those problems.

·         Language, speech and memory

Speech and language therapists can help a stroke patient who has trouble communicating, can’t find the right words, string sentences together, or put words together in a meaningful way, as well as improve his or her memory.

·         Muscle and nerve problems

Physical and occupational therapists can help strengthen and stretch muscles and teach the patient how to dress, eat, bathe, and other daily activities.

·         Bladder and bowel difficulties

Drugs and a bladder or bowel specialist can help with problems such as having the need to urinate often even if the bladder isn’t full.

·         Swallowing and eating difficulties

A speech therapist can help with problems like coughing or choking while eating or coughing up food after eating.

·         Emotional problems

A professional counselor can address emotional issues like depression and the frustration associated with the slow recovery from a stroke.