Stanford Stroke Center

Warning Signs of a Stroke

Your physician may identify certain signs that indicate you are at risk for stroke. Or, your body may warn you by the appearance of one or more of the symptoms listed on the following page.

Familiarize yourself with the following important warnings:


BALANCE: Sudden loss of balance.

EYES: Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes.

FACE: Does the face look uneven?

ARM: Does one arm drift down? Ask them to raise both arms.

SPEECH: Does their speech sound strange? Ask them to repeat a phrase.

TIME: Every second brain cells die. Call 911 at any sign of stroke!

For a stroke emergency, call 911.

Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs)

About one-third of all strokes are preceded by one or more "mini-strokes," known as transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). TIAs can occur days, weeks or even months before a stroke.

TIAs are caused by temporary interruptions in the blood supply to the brain. The symptoms occur rapidly and last a relatively short time, usually from a few minutes to several hours, always with complete recovery within 24 hours. For instance, if you experience a sudden loss of vision, or weakness in an arm or leg that disappears, you might be having a TIA.

Because TIAs are temporary and the body soon returns to normal, it is easy to ignore them or to believe that the problem has disappeared. However, it is dangerous to ignore TIAs, because the underlying problem that caused the TIA continues to exist. TIAs are often early warning signs of more serious and debilitating stroke in the future.

Seek Help Promptly

If you or someone you know experiences any of the warning signs listed above, it is extremely important to seek emergency help right away. Call 911 immediately even if you think that you are getting better or if the symptoms seem to disappear. If the symptoms last for more than 10 to 15 minutes, appear frequently or seem to get worse, ask the emergency responders for urgent transportation to the nearest appropriate emergency medical facility.

Unfortunately, patients often do not seek help for a day or more after the first symptoms appear. By that time, it is usually too late for new treatments to be effective. Recognizing and responding to the warning signs of stroke - as soon as they appear - gives the patient the best chance for an optimal recovery.

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