How to Identify Early Signs of Stroke

June 15, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Srinivas Pavuluri, M.D.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., and the leading cause of serious long-term disability. Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over. But when treated quickly, the risk of disability from stroke decreases dramatically. That’s why it’s important to know the signs and get medical attention as soon as possible.

Here are the signs and symptoms that neurologist Srinivas Pavuluri, M.D., of Bayshore Medical Center, says to watch out for:

  • Moderate to severe numbness or weakness on one side
  • Sudden speech impairment, like slurring or trouble with word retrieval
  • Sudden vision impairment, like blurry vision or seeing double

“Pay attention if someone suddenly complains they can’t see, if they develop double vision or if they suddenly complain of numbness, especially if it’s on one whole side,” says Dr. Pavuluri. “If they have an existing neck or back problem, weakness or numbness might not be worrisome. But if it happens suddenly, even if it’s just weakness, it may be a problem.”

Be Fast with BEFAST

Dr. Pavuluri says people should keep “BEFAST” in mind to help them remember what’s important during a stroke:

Balance issues

Eyes affected

Facial drooping

Arm weakness

Speech difficulties

Time to call 911

Time is one of the most important factors, because it can greatly impact the treatment that’s available. When patients act within four and half hours of stroke symptom onset, they are likely candidates for an IV injection of recombinant tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, a clot-busting drug that can greatly improve recovery.

Other interventions like plaque removal are available, but tPA is one of the most simple, effective treatments.

“With tPA, time is of the essence. Every minute counts,” Dr. Pavuluri says. “Even though it’s a four and half hour window, if you administer it earlier, there are fewer complications. If you administer it later, there’s more risk of causing bleeding. The sooner the better.”

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.