Signs of Stroke

When it comes to a stroke, time lost can be brain lost. Which is why knowing the signs of stroke and reacting quickly can save lives.

Diagram of a brain with close-up view of clogged blood vesselWhat Are the Signs of Stroke?

When trying to identify the signs of a stroke, think F.A.S.T.:

  • Face drooping - Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?
  • Arm weakness - Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech difficulty - Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • Time to call 9-1-1 - If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Even if you notice only one symptom, immediately call 911.

F.A.S.T. was created by the American Stroke Association.

Diagnosing a Stroke

If a patient is suspected of having a stroke, our team of specialists will act quickly to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

UNC REX Healthcare utilizes a variety of screening tools and diagnostic tests including:

  • Physical Exam - Basic physical exam, including blood pressure screening, to observe any signs of stroke and/or cardiovascular disease
  • Lab Tests - Blood tests may be performed to check for high cholesterol, diabetes and high levels of homocysteine
  • Computed Tomography (CT Scan) - A low-dose x-ray of the brain
  • Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA) - An x-ray of the head and neck performed with dye
  • Carotid Ultrasound - An ultrasound to determine blood flow in the carotid arteries
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - 3D images of the brain to identify tissue damage
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) - 3D images of the blood vessels in the head and those supplying blood to the brain
  • Echocardiogram (ECG) - An ultrasound of the heart
  • Transcranial Doppler (TCD) - An ultrasound which shows the blood flow through vessels of the brain
  • Arteriography - An x-ray of the arteries in the brain, made visible using dye, to identify bleeding or blockages

How Strokes Affect the Body

Since each area of your brain controls different body functions, the effect a stroke has on your body depends on the location of the obstruction and the extent of brain tissue affected.

While every stroke patient is different, there are physical, behavioral, communication and swallowing disorders that many people share.

Behavioral Changes:

  • Depression
  • Cognitive Changes 
  • One-Side Neglect
  • Personality Changes

Communication and Swallowing Conditions:

  • Aphasia
  • Apraxia
  • Auditory Overload
  • Dysarthia
  • Dysphagia

Physical Conditions:

  • Central Pain Syndrome
  • Loss of Balance
  • Toe Curl
  • Spasticity

These side effects may lesson in time or with the help of therapy, but others may be permanent.

Call 911

If you think you are experiencing a stroke, immediately dial 911.

Are you at risk for Stroke?

Take a quick assessment.

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Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award

The American Heart Association Award recognizes UNC REX Healthcare's commitment to quality stroke care.

stroke award image

Are you at risk for Stroke?

Take a quick assessment.

Find out now

Know the Signs of Stroke

Think FAST


Face droops


Arm drifts


Speech slurs


Time is critical

Call 9-1-1

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