What are the signs of a stroke and what should I do?

Recognising a stroke when it happens can allow you, or whoever is experiencing it, to get prompt medical treatment

Strokes tend to happen suddenly, without warning and can be very serious, with the potential to cause lifelong disabilities or death. Recognising a stroke when it happens can allow you, or whoever is experiencing it, to get prompt medical treatment. This can minimise the chances of serious long-term consequences, or even save your life, or the life of whoever else is experiencing a stroke.

Strokes can occur at any time during someone’s life, but are much more common in older people. It is therefore vital for everyone to know the signs of a stroke and what to do if you, or someone you are with experiences one.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is what happens when the blood supply, and therefore the flow of oxygen and nutrients, to a part of the brain is cut off. This is most commonly caused by a blocked artery or burst blood vessel.

The exact effects of a stroke and how serious it will be depends on what part and how much of the brain is affected and for how long the blood supply is cut off. If the blood supply can quickly be restored, the effects may be only temporary. However, if the blood supply is cut off for an extended period, it a large number of brain cells can die, leading to permanent disability or death.

Using the FAST system to recognise a stroke

There are many potential symptoms of a stroke, but some of the most common are covered by the FAST system. FAST is a mnemonic to help people recognise a stroke and know when to take action.

FAST stands for:

Face dropping – In many cases, the first visible sign of a stroke is when one side of a person’s face drops. They will often experience facial numbness and if they try to smile it will likely be uneven.

Arm weakness – A stroke often causes weakness or numbness in one arm. To test for this, try raising both arms and see if one of them naturally drifts downwards.

Speech difficulty – Strokes may cause the sufferer to begin slurring their speech or leave them struggling to speak at all. Repeating a simple sentence is an easy test for this.

Time to call for help – If you recognise any or all of the symptoms above, you should call an ambulance right away as urgent medical attention will be required.

What to do if you experience a stroke

If you think you are having a stroke, or that someone you are with is having a stroke, is it important to get to hospital straightaway. The right medical intervention, delivered promptly can be critical, helping to prevent long-term consequences or death.

Doctors can perform surgery to clear a blockage or repair a damaged blood vessel, or use medication to dissolve a blood clot that is causing a blockage. This can then restore blood flow to the affected part of the brain. Doctors can also take preventative action to help minimise the chance of future strokes, such as prescribing medication to reduce the risk of further blood clots or lower your blood pressure as required.

What to do if a stroke has been misdiagnosed

If you, or a loved one, have had a stroke misdiagnosed, or experienced a delay in the diagnosis being made, which leads to on-going complications or death, you may be entitled to medical negligence compensation. This can help you pay for any extra support or adaptions to your home you need to help you live independently, replace lost income from being unable to work, or support any dependants affected by the misdiagnosis.

To find out your chances of making a successful medical negligence claim for stroke misdiagnosis, or delayed diagnosis, it is a good idea to consult a specialist stroke misdiagnosis solicitor. They will be able to advise you on the strength of your claim and the best way to proceed.


what to do if you are having a stroke

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