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Stroke Symptoms and Warning Signs

Nurse smiles with patientStroke symptoms develop when a blood clot or broken blood vessel obstructs blood flow to the brain. These symptoms often appear suddenly; however, a person who has a stroke while sleeping will likely notice warning signs somewhat gradually when he or she wakes up. Once the stroke is treated and proper blood flow is restored, symptoms can dissipate over a period of several hours, although patients may face long-term complications with balance and fine motor skills if brain tissues were damaged during the stroke. In most cases, the main warning signs of a stroke are neurological, so patients may not experience pain. The most common stroke symptoms include:
  • Weakness or tingling on one side of the body (including one side of the face and one leg or arm)
  • Sudden, severe headaches that develop with no specific cause
  • Sudden loss of balance and/or vision (in one or both eyes)
  • Difficulty talking (slurred speech)
  • Difficulty understanding what other people are saying

An easy way to remember these stroke symptoms is the acronym F.A.S.T., which stands for:

  • (F) Face: Does the face droop on one side when trying to smile?
  • (A) Arms: Is one arm lower than the other when trying to raise both arms?
  • (S) Speech: Is repeating a simple sentence difficult? Is speech slurred?
  • (T) Time: Dial 9-1-1 immediately if the answer is yes to any of these questions, then note the time so the physician can get an understanding of approximately how long the symptoms have been present.

Because time is critical during a stroke, anyone who is experiencing stroke symptoms should seek immediate medical attention. Receiving care at the nearest comprehensive stroke center is the best possible option. A comprehensive stroke center can assess a patient’s symptoms and provide the appropriate emergency interventions, as well as follow-up care and rehabilitation to address any long-term complications. As the only nationally accredited comprehensive stroke center in Hillsborough County, Tampa General Hospital is uniquely equipped to care for patients who are experiencing stroke symptoms. We have a specialized and highly trained stroke team in-house 24 hours a day, and one of the largest neuroscience intensive care units in the country. And, as part of our commitment to comprehensive care, we also operate specialized inpatient and outpatient stroke rehabilitation programs to help patients regain the highest possible level of function as they recover from their stroke.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a stroke or has stroke symptoms, dial 9-1-1 immediately and ask for transportation to the comprehensive stroke center nearest you.