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Symptoms of stroke occur from interruption of the blood supply to part of your brain. They occur suddenly and differ depending on the part of the brain that is affected. Multiple symptoms happen together because the blood vessel that is blocked may supply a large enough area of the brain to include multiple functions. Anything your brain does may be affected.

Blood Supply and Lack of Blood Supply to the Brain

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The most common symptoms include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg—usually occurring on one side of the body
  • Sudden onset of confusion, difficulty swallowing, difficulty speaking, or difficulty understanding what others are saying
  • Blurry, dimming, or no vision in one or both eyes
  • Lightheadedness, falling, or loss of balance
  • Severe or unusual headache

Call for emergency medical help right away. Brain tissue dies quickly when deprived of oxygen. But, there is a brief window of opportunity to reverse some of the damage.

Strokes are classified according to their course in time:

  • A completed stroke reaches its maximum extent immediately or over the course of a few hours.
  • A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary loss of blood supply to the brain that resolves on its own, within 24 hours. It serves as a warning that a more severe stroke is likely.
  • A stroke in progress is one that continues to worsen over time, possibly even days.
  • Multiple small strokes may occur over time, from days to years, to produce an effect similar to one big stroke.

After a stroke, it is common to have emotional disturbances, as well as physical limitations. Keep these in mind, since they too may need treatment.


Know stroke. Stroke National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://stroke.nih.gov. Accessed November 20, 2013.

Stroke (acute management). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 24, 2013. Accessed November 20, 2013.

Warning signs of stroke. National Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Stroke-Warning-Signs_UCM_308528_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed November 30, 2013.

What is stroke? National Stroke Association website. Available at: http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=SYMP. Accessed November 20, 2013.

Last reviewed November 20, 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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