Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's also a leading cause of disability. But, when treated soon after symptoms start, the effects of stroke often can be lessened or reversed.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. Prompt treatment is crucial because early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications.
Watch for these signs and symptoms if you think you or someone else may be having a stroke. Pay attention to when the signs and symptoms begin. The length of time they have been present can affect your treatment options:
Trouble with speaking and understanding.
You may experience confusion. You may slur your words or have difficulty understanding speech.
Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg.
You may develop sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg. This often happens just on one side of your body. Try to raise both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke. Also, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.
Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes.
You may suddenly have blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, or you may see double.
A sudden, severe headache, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness, may indicate you're having a stroke.
Trouble with walking.
You may stumble or experience sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination.
Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of a stroke, even if they seem to fluctuate or disappear. Think "FAST" and do the following:
Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to rise up?
Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.
Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Don't wait to see if symptoms stop. Every minute counts. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the potential for brain damage and disability.