Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

A stroke happens about every 40 seconds. Each year, about 795,000 Americans have a stroke. Do you know the warning signs?

If you do have stroke warning signs, this means your brain isn't getting the blood it needs. Damage may be temporary or permanent. For example, you might lose the ability to speak, but recover it with time. You might have partial or complete weakness, for example, in the use of an arm or leg.

The important thing is what you do if stroke symptoms happen. The sooner the treatment, the less chance of serious damage to the brain. And this means less chance of permanent disability.

Stroke Warning Signs

Sometimes symptoms of stroke develop gradually. But if you are having a stroke, you are more likely to have one or more sudden warning signs like these:

  • Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side
  • Confusion or trouble understanding other people
  • Trouble speaking
  • Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking or staying balanced or coordinated
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache that comes on for no known reason

Types of Strokes

Stroke symptoms may differ, depending upon the type of stroke, where it occurs in the brain, and how severe it is. A less severe stroke may be more difficult to recognize.

An ischemic stroke happens when a vessel supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked. It can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, fatty deposits in arteries (atherosclerosis) can cause blood clots to form. Sometimes a blood clot forms in the heart from an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation. It then travels to a place where it blocks an artery supplying the brain.

A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain. This can also happen for a variety of reasons.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a "mini stroke" from a temporary blockage. Although a TIA doesn't cause permanent brain damage, it may cause stroke warning signs, which may last minutes or even hours. Think of this as a warning sign you shouldn't ignore.

What to Do if You Have Symptoms of Stroke

Remember that a stroke is a medical emergency. Sometimes it is even called a brain attack.

  • Don't ignore stroke warning signs – even if you have just one warning sign or if symptoms are mild or go away.
  • Don't wait! Every minute counts.
  • Call 911 or emergency medical services (EMS) if you have one or more symptoms for more than a few minutes. An ambulance can get you to a hospital without delay.
  • Check the time when symptoms begin. This is important information to share when you arrive at the hospital.

What if you're with someone else who might be having stroke symptoms but you're not sure?

Take charge and call 911. Some people may deny that there is a serious problem. They don't want others to make a fuss. Or they might ask, "What's the big rush?" It may help to remember this: What's the worst thing that can happen if this isn't a stroke? An unnecessary trip to the hospital. But what's the worst thing that can happen if you ignore the problem and it turns out to be a stroke? The result could be much worse.

Life With Atrial Fibrillation

Tips and facts to help you
live your best with atrial
fibrillation.
View slideshow

Atrial Fibrillation Poll

Which atrial fibrillation symptom bothers you the most?

View Results

WebMD Video Series

Click here to wach video: Atrial Fibrillation

Discover what happens during atrial fibrillation and what your doctor can do to manage it.

Click here to watch video: Atrial Fibrillation