A stroke happens when there is a blockage in the blood vessels that supply part of your brain. The effects can depend on how long the blockage lasts and which part of the brain is affected. It’s important to be aware of the signs of a stroke so that you can seek help right away if you or someone else is affected. Strokes can be very serious or even life threatening to it is vital to get help as soon as possible.
The symptoms of a stroke can be different depending on which part of the brain has been affected. However, there is a simple acronym that you can use to check whether someone might be having a stroke.
The FAST acronym stands for:
- Face: weakness or droopiness on one side, or not being able to smile normally
- Arms: not being able to lift both arms and hold them up
- Speech: difficulty speaking such as slurring or not being able to understand what you are saying to them
- Time: the T stands for time as it is vital to get help as soon as possible if you spot any potential stroke symptoms
Stroke symptoms often affect the face, arms or speech, but there can be other signs too. Other possible stroke symptoms are:
- Weakness or numbness, usually on one side of your legs, hands, feet or body
- Blurred vision or loss of vision in one or both of your eyes
- Confusion or memory problems
- Falling over
The symptoms of a stroke are often severe and they won’t go away by themselves. However, some people will have a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or ministroke. A ministroke happens when there is a temporary blockage in the blood vessels supplying the brain. It causes the same kind of symptoms as a stroke but these should go away once the blockage has cleared. Most people will feel back to normal soon after a TIA and the symptoms will rarely last for longer than 24 hours.
Although the effects of a ministroke are temporary it is still a very serious condition that requires urgent medical care. It is impossible to know whether the symptoms are caused by a stroke or a ministroke. Having a ministroke can also be a sign that you are likely to experience more ministrokes or a major stroke so it is essential to see a doctor. The right treatment can reduce the risks of having more strokes, which could prevent permanent damage or even help to save your life.
Although anyone can have a stroke, you are more likely to be affected if you are older, have a family history of stroke, smoke, or have a condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. It is particularly important to be aware of the signs if you are at higher risk, but everyone should know how to tell when someone is having a stroke.
What to Do If You Suspect a Stroke
The FAST acronym can be a good way to remember the signs of a stroke but you should also be aware of the other possible symptoms that can occur. If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke or ministroke then you should call an ambulance right away. A stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. It is essential to see a doctor even if the symptoms appear to go away as a TIA is still a serious condition that needs to be treated in order to prevent further ministrokes or a major stroke.
Getting help as soon as possible can help to limit the impact of a stroke by restoring the blood flow to the affected part of the brain as quickly as possible. However, strokes can be fatal or can leave you with a long-term disability. Rehabilitation can help you to recover or manage the effects of a stroke. You may also need to take medication or make lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of another stroke.
Anyone can have a stroke so it is important for us all to be aware of the signs. Someone has a stroke every five minutes in the UK. The faster that we recognise and respond to stroke symptoms, the better the chances of recovery.