Stroke Symptoms

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is suddenly cut off, depriving it of oxygen and essential nutrients. Symptoms vary depending on the intensity of the stroke, which area of the brain is affected, and the type of stroke.

The mnemonic FAST provides a handy reminder of how to recognise a potential stroke and was first proposed by the Department of Health and The Stroke Association, the Los Angeles Prehospital Stroke Screen (LAPSS) and the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale (CPSS).

The letters in this word act as reminders of the following stroke symptoms:

  • F for face - Stroke causes paralysis of the facial muscles which may lead to a drooped appearance on one side of the face and a loss of ability to smile normally.
  • A for arms -Weakness, heaviness and numbness in the upper body limbs may affect the ability to lift one or both arms.
  • S for speech - Speech may be slurred, garbled or completely absent.
  • T for time - Time is a vital parameter in stroke patients. The earlier a patient receives medical attention, the less risk there is of adverse consequences.

Additional symptoms of stroke include:

  • Headache - This is a typical feature of hemorrhagic stroke which occurs when a blood vessel ruptures within the brain. Blood leaking from the ruptured blood vessel accumulates and presses on the surrounding structures which can cause a headache.
  • Weak and immobile tongue
  • Weakness of muscles on one side of the neck causing the head to lean to one side.
  • Hemiplegia or weakness on one side of the body. There may be paralysis of the limbs on one side of the body.
  • Drooping of eyelid on affected side of the face
  • Altered sense of vision, hearing, taste and smell
  • Lack of balance leading to falls
  • Rapid movement of the eye balls called nystagmus
  • Rapid and shallow breathing and rapid heart rate
  • Loss of reflexes. For example, loss of the gag reflex that makes a normal person choke and cough when food enters the airways. Another example is the loss of the papillary reflex (pupil constriction) when light is shone on the eyes.
  • Nausea and vomiting

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jan 16, 2014

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