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Learn to recognize stroke signs, symptoms

March 23, 2016

Stroke is often called a "brain attack" and it's just as serious as a heart attack. Understanding what signs and symptoms to look for may possibly save your or your loved one's life one day. Here, Jodi A. Dodds, MD, Medical Director for Stroke at Duke Regional Hospital, explains what to look for and when to seek immediate treatment.

How do I know if I or a loved one may have had a stroke?

The classic signs of stroke include weakness and/or numbness on one side of the body, slurred speech, drooping of one side of the face, and difficulty producing the correct words with speech. Other symptoms include a sudden, extremely severe headache, sudden visual loss or sudden severe vertigo not brought on by a change in position. 

Are there less common signs?

A first-time seizure can be a sign a stroke has taken place without the patient experiencing other symptoms. Some patients with stroke may not notice their vision is not normal on the right or left side because vision in the other half of their visual world remains normal.

What should I do if I or a loved one appears to be having a stroke?

Call 911. Do not drive to the ER, as you or your loved one may experience symptoms and become medically unstable during the trip. Avoid taking aspirin at home—15 to 20 percent of stroke is hemorrhagic, meaning that bleeding is occurring in the brain, and aspirin can worsen the bleeding. Aspirin should only be given after a CT scan of the head confirms there is no bleeding present in the brain. 

Learn more about stroke care at Duke

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