If you believe that someone is experiencing a stroke, get emergency help immediately.
A stroke cuts off blood flow to the brain, depriving the brain cells of the oxygen they need to function. Cell death can happen within minutes of the beginning of a stroke, and a stroke can cause irreversible damage quickly. Without immediate help, a person can die or permanently lose function in a limb or organ.
People who are experiencing a stroke and get to the hospital in “the golden hour” (the first hour after symptoms start) are much more likely to have better outcomes. As the saying goes, “Time lost is brain lost.”
Here are some telltale signs that someone around you might be having a stroke.
- Loss of vision: Strokes are frequently accompanied by sudden loss of vision. This symptom has several varieties, including seeing double, blurred vision, or the appearance of black fields covering one’s field of vision. It may occur in one eye or both; a person experiencing a stroke may also lose depth perception or start feeling dizzy as a result.
- Speech issues: Another classic sign of a stroke is the person starting to slur or trip over their words. They may say the wrong words, words out of order, or suddenly stop talking mid-sentence. They will likely have difficulty understanding what others are saying and could become unresponsive as a result.
- Numbness: A limb feeling numb or unresponsive is a common sign of a stroke and can be overlooked by those who may think it has merely “gone to sleep” due to being left in one position or another. A person having a stroke might experience tingling or unusual weakness instead of complete loss of sensation, so if you detect numbness, be sure to start checking for other symptoms as well.
- Confusion: A person experiencing a stroke might find themselves unable to remember recent events or perform simple tasks. They may lose fine motor skills, forget what should be easily recalled information, or become disoriented.
If you detect that someone displays any of these symptoms, act FAST:
- F: Face drooping. One or both sides of the face may seem to sag. Ask them to smile. Can they do it?
- A: Arm weakness. Ask them to raise their arms. Are they numb? Or hard to lift?
- S: Speech difficulty. Are they having trouble speaking? Ask them to repeat a simple sentence.
- T: Time. If any of these symptoms show up, even if they go away, it’s time to get to the hospital, hopefully during the “golden hour.”
If possible, collect information such as when symptoms started, what the person was doing, and what, if any medications they were taking. If possible, send any relevant medications or medical equipment, such as insulin pumps or pacemakers, with the medical team.
Strokes are serious incidents that are likely to have life-threatening consequences if not addressed as soon as possible. Knowing what a stroke looks like and what to do if it happens can save a life.