Stroke – how to recognize the symptoms

Stroke - how to recognize the symptoms

stroke (apoplexy) is a disease that occurs suddenly and can sometimes have serious consequences. The apoplexy is caused either by the blockage of a vessel that usually supplies the brain with blood (ischemic stroke) or by bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). Depending on which brain area is affected by the vascular occlusion or the cerebral haemorrhage, the stroke can manifest itself through different symptoms. But what does a stroke look like? In this photo gallery, you’ll learn how to recognize a stroke and what a simple test you can do if you suspect someone is showing signs of a stroke.

Hemiplegia as a typical stroke symptom

A very typical symptom of a stroke is hemiplegia of the body. Typically, those affected can no longer move their arm and leg on one side of their body, or only to a limited extent. Like all stroke symptoms, this restriction of movement typically occurs suddenly. This means that reduced mobility in a leg that develops over weeks is not typical of a stroke.

Hanging corners of the mouth as the first sign of a stroke

Not only the arms and legs can be affected by unilateral paralysis. Half of the face is also very often paralyzed. The forehead can still be furrowed on both sides, but there are difficulties in puffing out the cheeks or forming a kissable mouth. This so-called “weakness in the mouth” can also be noticed when those affected drink the drink runs out of the corner of the mouth on one side because it is paralyzed.

Sensory disturbances on one side of the body

Not only can mobility be lost on one side of the body, but there are often also disturbances in touch sensation. Those affected feel that touching one side of the body is weaker than the other side or do not feel it at all. If movement disorders co-occur, then both these and the sensory disorders in the case of a stroke are typically found on the same side of the body.

The sensation of touch can be assessed by stroking both arms and legs simultaneously and asking the affected person whether they perceive the touch to the same extent on both sides.

Speech disorders as signs of a stroke

Speech disorders can also indicate a stroke. For example, a person who usually has no problems speaking may suddenly speak slowly, haltingly and with great difficulty in the morning, although they could speak usually the night before. A stroke can also manifest itself in sudden problems with speaking.

If symptoms, as in this example, occur directly after waking up, then one also speaks of a “wake-up stroke”. In about one in five cases, symptoms are noticeable when getting up in the morning. In general, all the signs presented here can appear suddenly during the day and immediately after waking up.

Impaired understanding of language as a symptom

The pronunciation of words and the content of what is said can suddenly change in the event of a stroke. Affected people chatter, for example, but what they say makes little sense. If you ask them questions, they answer them, but not meaningfully. For example, you could ask an affected person their name, and they would confidently give an inappropriate answer such as “August 8th”.

word-finding disorders

In addition to faltering speech and limited language understanding, those affected often have trouble finding words. For example, if you hold out a pen and ask them to name the object, an answer might be, “The thing you can write with.” However, they need help finding the correct term for the object.

Visual disturbances and double vision as signs

If the stroke affects the brain is rear region, visual disturbances are widespread. This can manifest itself, for example, in the fact that the entire left half of the field of vision can no longer be seen with both eyes. Double vision can also occur.

Due to the loss of some parts of the field of vision, some of those affected also describe, for example, that they are suddenly no longer able to correctly assess distances to objects such as the fork in their hand or the plate on the table.

However, not all visual disturbances necessarily indicate a stroke: Flickering in front of the eyes with subsequent headaches, especially in younger people or those with a history of headaches, could also be a so-called aura of a migraine. In older people who suffered from migraines in their youth, the headaches that follow the flickering of the eyes may not occur. On the other hand, flashes in the eye indicate damage to the retina of the eye (retina) rather than a stroke and require an ophthalmologist to be consulted as directly as possible.

dizziness in stroke

A stroke can also be manifested by sudden dizziness, often accompanied by an unsteady gait. Affected people often report the so-called “vertigo”, which feels like being on a swaying ship on the high seas. However, “spinning vertigo” can also occur, in which sufferers feel like riding a carousel.

In addition to the signs mentioned, non-specific symptoms such as headaches, nausea and vomiting can also occur in the event of a stroke. In some cases, a stroke could also be heralded by hearing loss or tinnitus – a Canadian study provides the first indications of this.

The FAST scheme as a test – recognize a stroke

In principle, a stroke in a woman does not differ from the stroke symptoms in a man, so the signs apply to both sexes. All the symptoms mentioned can be summarized in a simple scheme that even laypeople can follow to recognize the signs of a stroke.

With the FAST scheme, you can test possible stroke symptoms quickly and easily:

  • F for “Face” (Face in English)
  • A for “Arms”
  • S for “Speech” (speaking in English)
  • T stands for “Time.”

F for “Face” – face

Encourage the affected person to laugh while showing their teeth. In the case of a stroke, due to paralysis, one corner of the mouth often hangs lower than the other when smiling, or there is a slight inequality of the two halves of the face when smiling in the mouth area. For example, the nasal lip crease (nasolabial fold), which usually appears at the junction with the cheeks when smiling, could be less pronounced on one side.

You can also ask the person to puff out their cheeks and purse their lips to assess the mirror-image equality of the halves of their faces. “Sticking your tongue out” is also considered a possible stroke test: If the tongue inclines to one side when you stick it out or cannot be moved in both directions (to the right and left), this is also considered a possible symptom.

A for “Arms”.

Ask the affected person to stretch their arms out in front, palms up, as if the person is carrying a tray. Then, she should close her eyes and hold the position for about 30 seconds. During a stroke, the palm on one side is not extended upwards but rotates the hand inwards or even the entire arm sags. Sometimes, the arm cannot even be raised for the attempt. If you were to lift the person’s arm in such a case, it might fall straight back down without any strength.

You can also test the same thing on your legs. The person lying down should lift their legs parallel at right angles and hold them in the air with their eyes closed. A stroke can cause one leg to sag or even not lift.

S for “Speech” – speaking

Have the person repeat a simple sentence, such as “Dear Lilli Lehmann” or even more accessible “Today is a beautiful day”. You can also let the person name something. For example, hold a pen or watch and ask the person to name the object. In the event of a stroke, the other person may respond to your questions very slowly, slurred and uncertainly, or not in spirit, or may need to follow your prompts appropriately.

T for “Time” – time

T stands for time and, therefore, for a critical point. If any of the above exercises show abnormalities, call the emergency number (112) immediately. The sooner the affected person gets to the emergency room, the better the chances that their symptoms can be treated.

Insidious stroke: Symptoms

The insidious stroke refers to a short-term circulatory disorder of the brain ( transient ischemic attack, TIA). In this case, precisely the same symptoms as those already mentioned can occur suddenly. However, these regress within minutes to hours.

However, the TIA is a precursor to stroke, and the risk of a “real” stroke is highest in the first 24 to 48 hours after the event. Therefore, even if the symptoms have disappeared after a few minutes, you should go to the emergency room if this is the case.

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