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Recognizing symptoms/warning signs of stroke and understanding the underlying causes of stroke

How do you recognize stroke?
What are the symptoms/warning signs of stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply in the brain is interrupted or reduced. This is a life-threatening condition and it is important to recognize/know the symptoms of stroke, take them seriously and act accordingly (calling the emergency hotline).

Symptoms and warning signs of stroke include, but are not limited to:

Causes of stroke

  • One-sided paralysis or numbness, e.g. of one side of the body, an arm or leg, one side of the face, facial nerve paresis – e.g. slack corner of the mouth)
  • Trouble speaking or speech disorders (e.g. slurred speech, anomia, loss of speech faculty)
  • Trouble seeing or blindness (e.g. blurred, limited vision, seeing double)
  • Dizziness, nausea, loss of balance
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Unconsciousness or confusion, trouble understanding
  • Severe headache

Symptoms also depend on the localization and severity of the stroke. The above symptoms are often accompanied by severe, unspecific nausea. If one or more symptoms suddenly occur, act immediately.

The affected person shall be brought into a specialized hospital with a Stroke Unit as quickly as possible to start competent medical stroke treatment. Immediate medical attention increases the chance that the affected person’s life can be saved and that permanent disability and irreparable damage are prevented.

Stroke precursors:

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a brief period of symptoms similar to those in stroke. It does not leave lasting problems because it is temporary and disappears after a few minutes. It is extremely important to take this warning sign seriously and find the cause. This may help prevent stroke.

FAST test to quickly identify stroke:

  • F – Face:  Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • A – Arms:  Ask the person to raise both arms palms up with their eyes closed. Does one arm drift downwards or turn?
  • S – Speech:  Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • T – Time: If you observe any of these signs, call the emergency number immediately.
    Many stroke incidents can be recognized with this quick test. Tell the emergency operator about your suspicion.

What happens during stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply of the brain is interrupted. The nerve and brain cells are deprived of oxygen and other nutrients. The cells in the affected area begin to die depending on the duration and severity of the stroke thus leading to functional disorders of the central nervous system and even to death.

What causes stroke?

Reduced blood flow (ischemic stroke, cerebral infarction)

Blockage or narrowing of the arteries that provide blood to the brain results in reduced blood flow in parts of the brain. These blockages are caused by arteriosclerosis, blood clots originating in the brain or other parts of the body and vascular inflammation. This form of stroke accounts for around 80% of strokes.

Ischemic stroke

Cerebral hemorrhage (hemorrhagic stroke)

Hemorrhage in the brain is usually caused by arteries bursting open or high blood pressure. The blood flows into the surrounding brain tissue and the resulting pressure damages healthy areas of the brain and brain cells. Lack of blood in subordinated areas of the brain leads to reduced blood flow.

Hemorrhagic stroke


This article contains only general information and must not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. This information does not replace medical advice.