How do I know if someone is having a stroke? | Ask a Beaumont Doctor

by Sunitha Santhakumar, M.D., stroke director, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak

Ask A Beaumont DoctorA stroke occurs when a blood vessel bringing blood and oxygen to the brain is interrupted or ruptures (bursts) and brain cells don’t get the flow of blood that they need. Your brain cells need a constant supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients to work properly. Deprived of oxygen, nerve cells can’t function and die within minutes. When nerve cells do not function, the part of the body they control can’t function either. The devastating effects of stroke can be permanent because dead brain cells can’t be replaced.

There are several things to look for if you believe someone may be having a stroke. If you see any of these, call 911 immediately and get them to the nearest emergency room stroke stroke center. Knowing these signs and making that call just might help you save someone’s life.

Stroke warning signs include:

  • sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • sudden, severe headache with no known cause

We encourage everyone to think FAST when it comes to the signs of stroke:

FACE – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

ARMS – Does one arm drift downward?

SPEECH – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase like “The sky is blue.” Is their speech slurred or strange?

TIME – If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately!

It is critical to diagnose a stroke as soon as possible as the treatment for stroke depends on the type and source of the stroke, location of the injury to the brain and how long the brain tissue has been without blood supply. Lost time could mean permanent loss of brain activity.

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