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Signs and symptoms that signal a stroke

During a stroke, every minute counts. Fast treatment can lessen brain damage. By knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke, you can take quick action and perhaps save a life—maybe even your own.

Signs of stroke are sudden:

  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

Call 911 immediately if you or someone else has any of these symptoms.

Acting F.A.S.T. is key

Acting F.A.S.T. can help stroke patients get the treatment they desperately need. The stroke treatments that work best are available only if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed within three hours of the first symptoms. Stroke patients may not be eligible for these if they don't arrive at the hospital in time.

If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. by:

  • F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
  • T—Time: If you see any of these signs, call 911 right away.

Note the time when symptoms first appear. This information helps healthcare providers determine the best treatment. Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.

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