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What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke?

Strokes are sudden and may affect speech and movement. Some people’s sight is affected, while others become confused and unsteady, have trouble speaking or experience a sudden, severe headache for no apparent reason.1

Recognise a stroke

A quick response to the signs of a stroke, listed below, can help reduce damage to the brain and improve chances of a recovery. Clot-busting treatment is effective in reducing brain damage but has to be administered within three hours of the first symptoms.1

The ‘FAST’ test, which has been devised by the Stroke Association, is a helpful way of assessing three specific symptoms of stroke:

Facial weakness: Can they smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
Arm weakness: Can they raise both arms?
Speech problems: Can they speak clearly and understand what you say?
Time to call the emergency services

Always act fast

If someone fails any of these tests get help immediately by calling the emergency services.

A stroke should always be treated as a medical emergency – a speedy response can reduce the amount of brain damage and improve a person’s chances of recovery.

Don’t ignore short-term symptoms

A mini-stroke, also known as a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), may produce symptoms that disappear within 24 hours. Just because the symptoms pass doesn’t mean this isn’t serious. A mini-stroke or TIA can be a warning sign that someone is at risk of a major stroke and should always be treated as a medical emergency.1

Listen to family and friends

When someone has a stroke they often don’t realise they have a problem, and it may be a relative who first notices that something is wrong. They may comment that the person’s face looks odd or their speech seems slurred; remember that stroke should be treated as a medical emergency so act FAST.


1. When a stroke happens. The Stroke Association. Leaflet 4 version 1. September 2010.