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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke?

The signs and symptoms of a stroke often develop quickly. However, they can develop over hours or even days.

The type of symptoms depends on the type of stroke and the area of the brain that’s affected. How long symptoms last and how severe they are vary among different people.

Signs and symptoms of a stroke may include:

  • Sudden weakness
  • Paralysis (an inability to move) or numbness of the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Problems breathing
  • Dizziness, trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination, and unexplained falls
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sudden and severe headache

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) has the same signs and symptoms as a stroke. However, TIA symptoms usually last less than 1–2 hours (although they may last up to 24 hours). A TIA may occur only once in a person’s lifetime or more often.

At first, it may not be possible to tell whether someone is having a TIA or stroke. All stroke-like symptoms require medical care.

If you think you or someone else is having a TIA or stroke, call 9–1–1 right away. 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. During a stroke, every minute counts.

Stroke Complications

After you’ve had a stroke, you may develop other complications, such as:

  • Blood clots and muscle weakness. Being immobile (unable to move around) for a long time can raise your risk of developing blood clots in the deep veins of the legs. Being immobile also can lead to muscle weakness and decreased muscle flexibility.
  • Problems swallowing and pneumonia. If a stroke affects the muscles used for swallowing, you may have a hard time eating or drinking. You also may be at risk of inhaling food or drink into your lungs. If this happens, you may develop pneumonia.
  • Loss of bladder control. Some strokes affect the muscles used to urinate. You may need a urinary catheter (a tube placed into the bladder) until you can urinate on your own. Use of these catheters can lead to urinary tract infections. Loss of bowel control or constipation also may occur after a stroke.
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Stroke Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Stroke, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.


Stroke in the News

October 18, 2013
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Investigators from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Hormone Trials are reaffirming conclusions that hormone therapy is not recommended for the prevention of chronic disease, but may remain a reasonable option for the short-term management of menopausal symptoms for younger women. Investigators reached this conclusion after reviewing data from the trial and the extended post-trial follow up period.

View all Stroke Press Releases

 
March 26, 2014 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.