by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Symptoms of stroke happen when blood going to part of the brain is stopped. Problems can happen quickly and differ based on the part of the brain that is affected. Many symptoms can happen at the same time because the blocked or bleeding blood vessels may bring blood to a large part of the brain that does more than one job. The brain may not be able to do some tasks.

A person with any of the following symptoms should seek emergency medical services right away.

Blood Supply and Lack of Blood Supply to the Brain
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

The acronym F.A.S.T. may be the easiest way to identify the signs of a stroke. It means:

  • F—Face drooping —Drooping on one side of the face, with or without numbness. A person's smile may be uneven.
  • A—Arm weakness —Lack of strength in the arm with or without numbness. A person may not be able to lift both arms. One arm may drift down.
  • S—Speech problems —A person's speech may be slurred or hard to understand. They may not be able to repeat a basic sentence.
  • T—Time to call for emergency medical services —Call right away if someone shows these signs, even if they go away. Note the time problems started and when medical help was called.

Other common signs are:

  • Sudden confusion, problems swallowing, or problems understanding what others are saying
  • Problems seeing in one or both eyes
  • Lightheadedness, falling, or loss of balance
  • Sharp headache

Stroke can cause severe, lasting harm to the brain. It can be deadly. Getting treated right away can raise the chance a person will live and lower the amount of harm. The sooner the blood flow is restored the better the results will be. A person should be treated in the first hours after signs start.


Stroke. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed March 11, 2022.

Stroke (acute management). EBSCO DynaMed website. Accessed March 11, 2022.

Stroke symptoms. National Stroke Association website. Available at: Accessed March 14, 2022.

Winstein CJ, Stein J, Arena R, et al, American Heart Association Stroke Council, Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing, Council on Clinical Cardiology, and Council on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research.. Guidelines for Adult Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery: A Guideline for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2016 Jun;47(6):e98-e169 full-text, corrections can be found in Stroke 2017 Feb;48(2):e78 and Stroke 2017 Dec;48(12):e369.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review BoardRimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 11/2021
  • Update Date: 03/14/2022