Recognizing Stroke Symptoms
A cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is commonly referred to as a stroke. It occurs when there is an interruption in normal blood supply to the brain. This interruption can occur when arteries supplying the brain with oxygen-rich blood become blocked by a blood clot or plaque (ischemic stroke) or as the result of a leaking or ruptured blood vessel in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). Another condition associated with a stroke is a transient ischemic attack (TIA), often described as a mini-stroke. Although many of the same symptoms occur in the event of all three conditions, there are signs and symptoms unique to each. Recognizing the symptoms of a stroke or TIA and seeking immediate medical care can greatly improve the chances of avoiding mental and physical disability or even death.
Those experiencing either type of stroke or a TIA may complain of:
- A severe headache;
- Weakness, numbness, or paralysis of the face or extremities on one side of the body;
- Difficulty walking;
- Loss of balance or coordination;
- Vision problems, such as blurred or double vision;
- Trouble speaking clearly, including slurred speech;
- Confusion or trouble understanding communication.
Stroke symptoms may begin and progress suddenly, or gradually develop over the course of days. Symptoms of an ischemic stroke are generally focused on one side of the body, whereas the symptoms of a hemorrhagic stroke may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, confusion, neck stiffness, dizziness, seizures and/or unconsciousness. TIA symptoms closely mimic those symptoms of an ischemic stroke, but are usually short-lived. TIAs should be viewed as a stroke warning sign because individuals who experience TIA are much more likely to have a stroke.
Strokes are the third-leading cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the U.S. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a stroke or TIA and seeking immediate medical treatment can minimize the effects of a stroke and greatly improve your chances of avoiding permanent physical and mental disability, or even death.