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Providers Weigh In: Stroke — Know the Signs. Have a Plan.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A stroke is a "brain attack" that occurs when the blood flow to a part of the brain is disrupted. When this happens, brain cells begin to die as they get deprived of oxygen. Depending on where the stroke occurs, the functions controlled by that area of the brain, such as muscle control, get damaged. 

"Stroke is a medical emergency and must be treated as quickly as possible. It happens fast and can lead to long-term disability depending on how quickly it is diagnosed and treated," says Maureen Hillman, project coordinator at the UI Health Stroke Institute. "Knowing the symptoms and getting to the hospital fast can increase your chance of complete recovery and allow you to enjoy the lifestyle you had prior to the stroke."

Symptoms often appear suddenly, without any warning. Primary symptoms include:

  • Confusion, including trouble speaking and understanding
  • Sudden and severe headache
  • Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg, particularly on one side of the body
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eye
  • Trouble walking, including dizziness and loss of coordination

When to Seek Medical Attention

The acronym FAST is an easy way to remember how to detect and respond to stroke-like symptoms.

  • F - Face drooping: One side of the face is drooping or numb. Ask the person to smile.
  • A - Arm weakness: One arm is weak or numb. Ask the person to raise both arms.
  • S - Speech difficulty:  Speech is strange or slurred. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. 
  • T - Time to call 911: If any of these signs are noticed, immediately call 911. Call even if the symptom or symptoms go away. Take note of the time the first symptom appeared. This information is crucial and can impact treatment options.

Stroke Treatment
Treatment for stroke depends on the cause and type of the stroke. UI Health is certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, providing the highest level of care to the most complex stroke cases 24/7. Our experts from several specialties collaborate together to provide comprehensive care based on the individual needs of the patient. To learn more about UI Health Stroke Institute, visit