Symptoms of Stroke

A stroke, or brain attack, is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Because most strokes do not cause severe pain, patients often delay seeking treatment, resulting in extensive brain tissue damage.

Symptoms of stroke depend on the type and which area of the brain is effected. Signs of ischemic stroke usually occur suddenly, and signs of hemorrhagic stroke usually develop gradually. Symptoms include the following:

  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech (aphasia)
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness (vertigo)
  • Numbness, paralysis, or weakness, usually on one side of the body
  • Seizure (relatively rare)
  • Severe headache with no known cause
  • Sudden confusion
  • Sudden decrease in the level of consciousness
  • Sudden loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden vision problems (e.g., blurry vision, blindness in one eye)
  • Vomiting

In transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), one or more symptoms occur suddenly, last a few minutes, and then subside. These "ministrokes" also require immediate medical attention to reduce the risk for damage to brain tissue and to evaluate the risk for stroke.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 02 Jan 2000

Last Modified: 03 Jan 2013