How does it present?

A stroke presents fast. When there is a cut off in the blood supply to any part of the brain the manifestation of this usually begins instantaneously. A typical way it presents would be sudden onset of weakness down one side of the body including the face or problems with speaking. There are lots of other ways that a stroke can present depending on which part of the brain has lost its blood supply. For example, there could be sudden onset of loss of vision or double vision. The most important point to note though is that the symptom comes on very quickly and this helps distinguish it from other causes of similar symptoms.

People often refer to a “mini-stroke”. The other term for this is “transient ischaemic attack (TIA)”. This refers to a stroke that occurs in the exact same way as a full stroke- as in sudden onset of weakness or speech problems- but the difference is that the symptoms don’t last that long (anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours) and by definition are never permanent. A mini stroke or TIA is a warning sign of a future stroke and needs to be taken very seriously. Having a mini stroke significantly increases the chance of you having a full stroke so it should be considered the time to take action.

The FAST acronym was created to help people remember the main warning symptoms of a stroke so that they can act immediately.

Face

Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

Arm

Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downwards?

Speech

Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase (such as “the sky is blue”). Is their speech slurred or does it sound strange?

Time

If you observe any of these signs it is Time to call emergency services.

Also, note the time of onset of the symptoms as this has important implications for the treatment they receive.

More information about this can be found at www.stroke.org and the Irish Heart Foundation website www.irishheart.ie