Know the Signs: Is it a headache or a stroke?

Elizabeth Ferluga, MD

Each year nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke.

It’s the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the U.S.The signs of a stroke can be hard to recognize. Common symptoms, like arm weakness, difficulty walking/lack of coordination, blurred vision, headache or dizziness can be easily ignored. Rather than call 911, many people wait for the symptoms to go away—only to realize later they suffered a mini stroke or that they could have prevented a major one.

To help you recognize the many different signs of a potential stroke, the specialists at Erlanger have compiled this convenient list.

F.A.S.T. is a widely-accepted guide that can help you determine whether someone is having a stroke:

  • F = Face drooping: Ask the person experiencing symptoms to smile. Is one side of their face drooping?
  • A = Arm Weakness: Tell the person to close their eyes and raise their arms above their head. Is the person unable to lift one or both arms?

    Kim Smith, MD

  • S = Speech Problems: When the person speaks, is their speech slurred, or are they having issues speaking or understanding words?
  • T = Time to call 911: If the person is experiencing any of the above signs, call 911 immediately.

These signals are not as common, but are indicative of certain types of strokes:

  • Sudden agitation, migraine headaches, indigestion or nausea—unique symptoms that women often present during a stroke
  • Quick, inquisitive behavior—typical of a stroke that occurs in the right side of the brain
  • Inability to move anything below one’s neck—indicative of a stroke that occurs in the brain stem.

While not a complete list of symptoms, these guidelines provide a helpful base of knowledge that could make a difference to you or someone you love.

Erlanger East Hospital offers diagnosis and treatment of common neurologic disorders including headaches, seizures, tremor, stroke and TIA, neuropathy and multiple sclerosis in their General Neurology Clinic, Monday through Thursday. Erlanger East Hospital also offers a Movement Disorder Clinic on Tuesdays.

To schedule an appointment with Elizabeth Ferluga, MD or Kim Smith, MD, call 423-778-9001.