Symptoms of Stroke

Symptoms of stroke are due to interruption of the blood supply to part of your brain. They occur suddenly and differ depending on the part of the brain affected. Multiple symptoms generally arise together because the artery that is blocked usually supplies a large enough area of the brain to include multiple functions. Anything your brain does may be affected.

Blood Supply and Lack of Blood Supply to the Brain

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The most common symptoms include:

  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Blurry, dimming, or no vision
  • Difficulty swallowing, talking, or comprehending others
  • Dizziness, falling, or loss of balance
  • Severe or unusual headache

Call for emergency medical help immediately. Brain tissue dies quickly when deprived of oxygen, but there is a brief window of opportunity to reverse some of the damage.

Strokes are classified according to their course in time:

  • A completed stroke reaches its maximum extent immediately or over the course of a few hours, often before you can get medical attention. These are usually thrombotic (clotting) rather than hemorrhagic (bleeding) strokes.
  • A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a temporary loss of blood supply to the brain that cures itself, usually within 24 hours. It serves as a warning that a more severe stroke is likely.
  • A stroke in progress is one that continues to worsen over time, possibly even days.
  • Multiple small strokes may accumulate over time, from days to years, to produce an effect similar to one big stroke. These small strokes are frequently due to blood clots from the heart, as in the case of atrial fibrillation .

After a stroke it is common to have emotional disturbances as well as physical limitations. Keep these in mind, since they too may need treatment.


Kasper DL, Braunwald E, Fauci A, Hauser S, Longo D, Jameson JL. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 16th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2004.

Last reviewed May 2007 by J. Thomas Megerian, MD, PhD, FAAP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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