5 warning signs of a stroke

5 Warning Signs of a Stroke

It had been a busy day for us all. As I walked into the house, just home from work, I found my mother laying on the couch with a friend of hers sitting close by, with a worried look on their face. That got my attention.

My family and I had moved into her house to be caregivers. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and the chemotherapy treatments was challenging her ability to care for herself. She still had several treatments to go.

Warning Signs

That evening she described some strange symptoms. She evidently experienced a sudden onset of extreme vertigo, while in a seated position. She also complained about headaches. Unknown to us, these were all signs of a stroke.

I called her doctor, worried about what was going on. Everything was explained  away as reactions to the chemotherapy treatment. To make a long story short… several days later, it was finally determined she had had a stroke. She was in ICU when that determination was made. I guess everyone was too involved with keeping her alive to worry about a stroke.

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If Only,..

She later was admitted to a rehab facility where she worked on recovery from stroke. The cancer ended up claiming her about six months later, but she had recovered a significant amount of what was lost because of the stroke.

Still, I can’t help but think,…  if we could have recognize the signs of a stroke sooner, we may have been able to improved her quality of life during her last days.

The following comes from Stephanie Trelogan,  a Caring.com Senior Editor*

If you notice one or more of the following stroke signs, call 911 right away. Make a note of the exact time when symptoms began; this information can be extremely helpful for the emergency room personnel.

5 Possible Warning Signs

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg — especially on one side of the body. You may notice that the stroke victim’s mouth suddenly looks “uneven.” Ask him to smile and see if one side droops. He may have difficulty moving his arm or controlling his fingers. Have him close his eyes and raise both arms to see if one of them drifts downward.
  2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding. Language problems are among the most common signs of stroke. Someone having a stroke may suddenly begin slurring his speech or have trouble speaking. He may not be able to understand what you’re saying to him. Ask him to repeat a simple sentence back to you, such as “I went to the store today.” If he has difficulty getting the words out, the cause could be a stroke.
  3. Sudden vision trouble in one or both eyes. Vision problems that come on suddenly is another common stroke symptom. What to look for: Someone having a stoke may not be able to see clearly out of one eye, or may have difficulty looking to the right or left. He may complain of blurry or double vision.
  4. Sudden difficulty walking, loss of balance or coordination, dizziness. Walking as if intoxicated, stumbling, or even falling down are all stroke symptoms. Other similar signs to watch for: Walking with legs spread apart or a sudden loss of fine motor ability, such as an inability to write.
  5. Sudden severe headache with no known cause. A headache is not necessarily a stroke symptom. But if a headache strikes unexpectedly or seems unusually intense, it’s reason for concern. If a stiff neck, facial pain, or vomiting accompanies the headache, the cause could be an intracranial hemorrhage, also known as a “red stroke.”

Not all of these warning signs occur with every stroke. Don’t ignore stroke symptoms even if they disappear. And don’t let the person talk you out of calling 911. Tell him you understand that he’s upset, but you’re going to call anyway because you love him. The most precious gift you can give someone who’s having a stroke is immediate treatment.


*Stephanie Trelogan is a Caring.com Senior Editor. Older people in Stephanie’s family have coped with a variety of stroke- and heart-related conditions, and several family members — including Stephanie — have struggled with depression.

Your thoughts are welcome.

This article updated on 10/28/2020

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