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Stroke Signs and Symptoms

At Palmetto Health, we want you to know the symptoms of stroke. Strokes appear suddenly, and require treatment as quickly as possible.

If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing any of these warning signs, do not wait. Call 911 immediately and ask to be taken to the closest Primary Stroke Center.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

What is a stroke?
A stroke, sometimes called a "brain attack," occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. When this happens, brain cells in the immediate area stop getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function. Some of these brain cells die immediately, while others remain at risk for death. Cells within the damaged area of the brain can remain at risk for several hours. With timely treatment, these cells can be saved.

What causes a stroke?
There are two major kinds of stroke, and their causes are different. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel or artery to the brain. About 85% of all strokes are ischemic. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel in the brain breaking and bleeding.

Why is getting to the hospital so urgent? 
Effective therapies for stroke are available at Palmetto Health, and one of these life-saving therapies, tPA, must be administered within three hours. To be evaluated and receive treatment in time, it is imperative to get to the hospital within 60 minutes. Patients arriving inside this "golden hour" are twice as likely to qualify to receive the clot-busting drug tPA, which is needed to reverse stroke symptoms.

There are also acute stroke therapies that may stop a stroke while it is happening; these include quickly dissolving the blood clot causing an ischemic stroke, or stopping the bleeding of a hemorrhagic stroke. For these to work,you must seek emergency treatment right away.

Does a stroke affect just the brain?
Stroke is a condition of the brain. Because the brain controls everything the body does, a stroke can affect the entire body. When brain cells don't function, the part of the body they control can't function as it did before the stroke. Some of the disabilities that can result from stroke can be permanent because dead brain cells can't be repaired. Disabilities that can result from a stroke can range from mild to severe and include:

  • Paralysis or weakness
  • Loss of vision
  • Dizziness and loss of balance
  • Problems with thinking and memory
  • Difficulties with speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Incontinence
  • Emotional problems
  • Pain or numbness

Helpful Stroke Resources