How to Spot and Respond to Stroke Symptoms

How to Spot and Respond to Stroke Symptoms

By Dr. Monica Ball, MD

Rebecca, an active 50 year old woman, was meeting a friend for coffee when she noted something was amiss – despite the perfect grammar of her thoughts, her speech was coming out garbled. However, by the time she finished her coffee, she was speaking normally, although she did note that she was having a harder time “finding her words”. The next morning she was back to her normal self. She went to see a doctor a week later, who ordered a specialized imaging of her brain. The imaging results showed that she had two strokes over the past week. 

This story is just an example, but it illustrates how unexpected a stroke can be, and how tricky it can be to spot the symptoms. A stroke is defined as sudden damage to brain tissues, typically due to loss of blood flow to an area of the brain (ischemic stroke) or to bleeding within the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). Since the brain is responsible for muscle coordination, speech, sensation, and vision, all of these processes can be affected by stroke.

The reason that stroke symptoms can vary so much is that not all brain tissue is the same. This means that a small stroke to one area of the brain could result in many symptoms, while a small stroke to another area could cause no notable symptoms at all.

The most common symptoms of stroke are the sudden onset of facial droop, troubling speaking or swallowing, or difficulty moving one side or part of the body. However, more subtle symptoms, such as vision changes, headaches, and dizziness can also be due to stroke.

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical care at an Emergency Room immediately – even if the symptoms go away on their own within minutes. Brief episodes of stroke-like symptoms increase a person’s risk for stroke in the next few days. Early recognition and treatment of stroke and stroke-like symptoms can save both lives and functionality.


About the Author

Monica Ball, MD, is a Family Medicine Physician based in Southern California. Her focus is on providing holistic treatment to under-served patient populations in order to prevent and manage chronic diseases such as stroke. In her free time, she runs marathons, reads, and is slowly learning to cook like a pro. She writes for Flint to share her knowledge and experience as a doctor with a broader audience.