Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Stroke Health Center

Font Size

Understanding Stroke -- Diagnosis and Treatment

How Do I Know If I've Had a Stroke?

You should consider these symptoms warning signs and consult your health care provider or call 911 right away:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body.
  • Abrupt loss of vision, strength, coordination, sensation, speech, or the ability to understand speech. These symptoms may become worse over time.
  • Sudden dimness of vision, especially in one eye.
  • Sudden loss of balance, possibly accompanied by vomiting, nausea, fever, hiccups, or trouble with swallowing.
  • Sudden and severe headache with no other cause followed rapidly by loss of consciousness -- indications of a stroke due to bleeding.
  • Brief loss of consciousness.
  • Unexplained dizziness or sudden falls.

When a patient displays stroke-like symptoms, a doctor, often a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in managing strokes) must not only confirm the symptoms but also identify the type of stroke, its location, and the extent of brain damage. Treatment decisions hinge on all these issues. Testing is typically done quickly, since immediate treatment may limit brain and nerve damage.

The doctor first examines the patient and obtains a medical history, if possible. A standard exam includes checking blood vessels in the eyes, listening for unusual noises in the heart and in the prominent carotid arteries of the neck (a sign of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries), measuring blood pressure and pulse rate, and testing strength, sensation, and reflexes (a sign of good nerve health).

CT or MRI scans are the most critical tests used to diagnose stroke.

What Are the Treatments for Stroke?

Treatment is based on information gathered through a medical history, physical exam, and an emergency CT scan. Upon arrival in an emergency room with a suspected stroke, the doctors and medical staff will do the following tasks:

  • First, the hospital staff will assist a person with breathing, if the person is unconscious or losing consciousness, by providing supplemental oxygen.
  • A quick history will be taken from the patient or loved one to determine the exact time symptoms started.
  • A physical exam will be done to determine the severity of symptoms.
  • Next, an emergency CT scan will be obtained to determine the type of stroke and its size and location in the brain.
  • If the person is having an ischemic stroke, a clot buster drug (tPA) may be given via the veins (intravenously) to dissolve the obstructing clot. Clot busters need to be given within the first three to four and a half hours of the onset of symptoms. If it can't be determined when symptoms started, the patient is not a candidate for tPA. Clot busters are not given to people with hemorrhagic strokes as they may worsen the bleeding.
  • In a small number of cases, emergency surgery might be needed to drain blood from a hemorrhagic stroke or to clip a ruptured artery or aneurysm -- blocking off the vessel to halt further bleeding.
1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

brain illustration stroke
Know these 5 signs.
brain scans
Test your stroke smarts.
woman with migraine
Is there a link?
brain scan
Get the facts.
brain scans
woman with migraine
brain scan
senior man stretching pre workout
Floor level view of therapist helping stroke patie
concerned woman
Lowering Cholesterol Slideshow