A stroke occurs when the blood flow to a particular area of the brain is blocked or cut off. Brain cells deprived of oxygen begin to deteriorate and die, and in most cases, bodily functions and limbs controlled by that part of the brain start to malfunction. Muscle control and memory may be lost. A mini-stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when a person experiences symptoms of a stroke that resolve in 24 hours or less. However, anyone experiencing the symptoms of a mini or full stroke should seek medical attention immediately.
Stroke causes facial palsy, a type of paralysis that usually affects one side of the face. The lower eyelid may also droop from the weight of the cheek. Lack of sensation can cause drooping of the corner of the mouth, as well, that may result in drooling.
A stroke can affect speech in two ways. Dysarthria affects the muscles, making words slurred, slow, and difficult to understand. Dysphasia is an impairment not only of speech but also of verbal comprehension. Both complications make it hard for the individual to position his or her mouth to properly form words. Temporary loss of movement in the face is one of the leading indicators of an impending stroke.
Unexplained loss of movement in the arm may indicate a stroke. Tingling or numbness often accompanies a heaviness that makes the limb feel difficult to move, or a lack of coordination. If one arm is affected while the other remains normal, it is best to call for help immediately, as a stroke is a likely cause.
Many transient issues and medical conditions can cause blurred vision. When a stroke is to blame, parts of the brain that control vision are affected. The individual may experience blurriness, double vision, or dark spots in the vision in one or both eyes, similar to that experienced during a migraine. Other people lose half their visual field in each eye. It is also possible to experience complete loss of vision, which may be temporary.
Anyone who experiences intense headaches regularly should speak to a physician. In some cases, recurring headaches can warn of an impending stroke. A thunderclap headache can come on suddenly and cause considerable pain. If headaches occur in conjunction with vision issues, numbness or weakness on one side of the body, or facial pain, it is even more important to see a doctor.
If dizziness occurs along with other signs or symptoms of stroke, immediate medical intervention is required. Dizziness that leads to loss of consciousness is especially dangerous. Individuals experiencing this symptom may feel confused and disoriented and, in addition to possibly preceding a stroke, can cause dangerous falls or other accidents.
Loss of balance can have many causes, including a stroke. When the brain cannot communicate with the appropriate parts of the body, the eyes, ears, joints, and muscles do not function cohesively. A person in the early stages of a stroke may be unbalanced and lack simple coordination or be incapable of basic physical activities.
A stroke typically affects only one side of the body. A single paralyzed limb is called monoplegia. Hemiplegia refers to paralysis on one side of the body — the arm and leg. Paralysis can be occurring even if sensation is not lost and some muscle function remains. Complete paralysis occurs when an individual experiences a total loss of sensation and muscle function. Paralysis from a stroke may be temporary or permanent depending on the severity of the event, nerve and muscle damage, and physical therapy.
People who have had a stroke may experience difficulty swallowing, called dysphagia. This can lead to food or fluids entering the airway or lungs. When aspiration of food or fluid occurs in someone in good health, they typically cough violently to remove the substance. In a person who has had a stroke, however, the response is delayed, and the sensation reduced. As a result, particles in the airway can be life-threatening.
Lack of oxygen to the brain from temporarily reduced blood flow may cause loss of consciousness. In this kind of blackout, also known as syncope, the individual loses consciousness briefly. When syncope occurs as a symptom of a stroke or mini-stroke, it may involve an artery blockage or clot.
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