Stroke, or cerebral infarction, is caused by an abrupt interruption of blood flow.when a brain vessel breaks or becomes clogged.

This is a serious medical problem, which involves a series of sequels of different severity. The good news is that there is a series of warning symptoms that allow us to detect the approach of a stroke and act accordingly.

In this article we will know nine warning signs of stroke. If we observe one (or more than one) of them in a friend or relative (or in ourselves), we should go to the emergency room immediately. At the end of the article, we will also talk about the usual treatments that are applied in cases of stroke.

Ictus: what is it? and types

Stroke, also known as stroke, embolism, or thrombosis, consists of an interruption of blood flow in some area of the brain.

Two things can happen; a blood vessel ruptures, or is clogged by a clot. If it ruptures (hemorrhagic stroke), brain hemorrhage occurs, and blood floods certain areas of the brain; however, if it becomes plugged (ischemic stroke), certain areas do not receive blood and therefore no oxygen, which can lead to neuronal death in these areas.

This implies diverse consequences and symptoms for the person, from cognitive affectations, to problems of mobility, sensitivity, language, etc. (it all depends on the affected area and other factors).

9 warning signs

They exist, however, some warning signs that may be indicating that a stroke is approaching.

These warning signs or symptoms manifest themselves in the person who is about to suffer a stroke. Knowing them will be of vital importance and can help us, since, in the event of a stroke, we will be able to prevent further damage (intervening in the symptoms early).

Let’s look at the 9 most important stroke warning signs below.

1. Speech difficulties

One of the first warning symptoms of a stroke is speech difficulties.. Thus, it is difficult for a person to formulate sentences with meaning, or even repeat a sentence that we propose. In this way, if we suspect that we are facing an alarm symptom, we can ask the person to repeat a simple phrase.

In the event that it cannot do so, we must be alert and even go to the emergency room. Another characteristic that you can manifest is that you do not understand what we are telling you (comprehension difficulties).

2. Vision disturbances

Another warning sign of stroke is impaired vision. This can be translated into: blurred vision, double vision, loss of vision (in both eyes or in one), etc. Although this symptom, like the others, may be the result of a disorder other than stroke (or sometimes tiredness), we must be alert and take it seriously, going to the ER if necessary.

3. Sudden headache

Sudden headache is also a warning sign in the case of stroke. This occurs because some area of the brain is not receiving its necessary supply of oxygen. It is a headache of unusual intensity; moreover, there seems to be no justifiable cause.

On the other hand, sometimes this pain is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, paralysis of some area of the body, and so on.

4. Memory failures

We must also be alert if the person (or ourselves) has a sudden memory failure.. This memory failure is not the typical memory error that usually appears with age, but is usually accompanied by great mental confusion for the person.

5. Loss of sensation (“crooked smile”)

Another characteristic symptom before the approach of a stroke is loss of sensation in some areas of the bodyespecially on the face (one side or both). It is, in fact, one of the most common alarm symptoms.

This loss of sensation in the face leads to an inability to smile (i.e. we cannot move the right or left part of the mouth). Thus, the person’s mouth is crooked. In addition, the loss of sensation is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a tingling sensation in the face (or in the arm, leg…).

6. Muscle weakness

The approach of a stroke may also cause this other alarm symptom: muscle weakness (or lack of strength), as well as sensitivity on some side of the body. It can be proved by asking the person to raise his arms; if he is unable to do so (or one of them falls “down”), we should be concerned.

7. Dizziness

Feeling dizzy may also be alerting us to the approach of a possible stroke.. This dizziness may also translate into a feeling of loss of balance or difficulty walking, and is due to loss of strength on one side of the body (or both).

8. Numbness

Another warning symptom, and also very common, is numbness of the body (or part of it)which results in a sudden feeling of weakness in certain muscle groups, usually the leg or arm. In addition, movement problems may also occur.

9. Alteration of other senses

In addition to the vision, alterations may also appear in the rest of the senses: smell, touch, hearing… Thus, for example, strange sensations related to the senses appear.

Possible treatments

What treatments exist for stroke? These will vary according to their origin (hemorrhagic or ischemic stroke) and other factors. However, what is clear is that treatment should be started as soon as possible, as early as possible.

Sometimes a surgical intervention will be required to eliminate the blood clot, as well as to decrease the intracranial pressure that the brain is suffering and that can lead to a cerebral hemorrhage. If the stroke is ischemic (lack of oxygen), the patient should receive a pharmacological treatment with anticoagulants for the rest of his life.

This last treatment is of a preventive nature (it aims to avoid the appearance of new strokes), and is also applied to patients with a high risk of suffering from cerebrovascular and/or cardiovascular problems.

On the other hand, the treatment to intervene in the after-effects caused by the stroke will be rehabilitative in nature, i.e. it will consist of a rehabilitative treatment that will improve lost or damaged functions. This treatment, depending on the sequelae, will be focused on improving the patient’s mobility (physiotherapy), as well as their language (speech therapy) and other cognitive functions such as memory, attention, etc.. (neuropsychological rehabilitation).

Bibliographic references

  • Ministry of Science and Innovation. (2009). Clinical Practice Guide for the Management of Patients with Stroke in Primary Care. Clinical practice guides in the NHS. Ministry of Health and Social Policy.

  • Spanish Society of Neurology. (1996). Management of patients with acute cerebral vascular disease. Study Group on Cerebrovascular Diseases.

  • Ustrell-Roig, X. and Serena-Leal, J. (2007). Ictus. Diagnosis and treatment of cerebrovascular diseases. Revista Española de Cardiología, 60(7): 753-769.