15 little-known Stroke symptoms Doctors Wish Everybody Knew

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15 Not-so-Obvious Symptoms of Stroke Doctors Wish Everybody Knew

Stroke symptoms can be as extreme as a sudden inability to speak. However, oftentimes the subtle hints – though just as dangerous – are disregarded as common health issues. Failure to catch these symptoms can lead to delays in receiving medical attention, rendering the most effective stroke treatments utterly useless.

Receiving medical care in time can significantly increase the chances of surviving a stroke since certain therapies are only effective in the first few hours after experiencing one. Symptoms such as weakness in limbs and unconsciousness are easy to spot, but these 15 less dramatic symptoms are signs of an imminent stroke.

The symptoms of a stroke may be as dramatic as the sudden inability to move or talk, but more subtle signs like dizziness and numbness are just as significant and often missed, according to a new study. Researchers say failing to recognize these stroke symptoms may lead to dangerous delays in receiving medical care and render some of the most effective stroke treatments useless.

Experts say timing is critical to stroke care and reducing brain damage. Some therapies, such as clot-busting drugs that can restore blood flow to the brain and reduce stroke-related disability, may be given only within three hours of the start of stroke symptoms, according to U.S. treatment guidelines.

Major symptoms of stroke include difficulty speaking, weakness in the limbs, and loss of consciousness. But other, less dramatic symptoms may also signal a stroke:

  • Weakness in the face (such as a droopy eyelid or lip)
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness
  • Loss of balance
  • Slurred speech
  • Headache


In the study, researchers examined tape recordings of emergency calls of stroke patients admitted to a German hospital over the course of a year. The calls were analyzed for mention of stroke symptoms and the length of time it took emergency response workers to respond.

The results appear in the March 21 issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers found speech problems were reported in about a quarter of the cases, limb weakness in 22%, and an altered state of consciousness in about 15%. A fall was the main reason for the emergency call in 21% of the cases.

But callers seldom mentioned subtle stroke symptoms. Facial weakness was cited in 10% of cases, numbness in 8%, and dizziness in about 6% of cases.

“Many patients wait to see if symptoms improve or disappear,” says researcher René Handschu, MD, of the Freidreich-Alexander-Universitaet Urlangen-Nurnberg in Germany, in a news release. “From the patient’s point of view, numbness of one limb or even dizziness and nausea is not so bad that you will bother all your neighbors by calling an ambulance with lights and sirens.”

In fact, only about 20% of the callers mentioned stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) as the possible cause of the symptoms. Researchers say that finding reflects a lack of knowledge about stroke symptoms.

The study also shows that the average time between the start of stroke symptoms and placement of a call for an ambulance was 38 minutes. It then took an average of 12 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, and 51 minutes for the patient to arrive at the hospital. Once at the hospital, clot-busting drugs were delivered in about 40 minutes.

“In sheer numbers, the biggest delay is prehospital,” says Handschu. “We can work on further reduction of in-hospital delays of treatment but we reach limits. The most important factor in reducing delay is the patient himself.”

The study found that patients who delayed emergency calls were usually older, living alone, unaware of the severity of their symptoms, or unable to call. That’s why researchers say it’s also important for friends and family members of persons at risk to gain a greater awareness of stroke symptoms.

“There is a striking need for educational efforts to improve recognition of especially non-dramatic and atypical stroke symptoms in the general population but also in family members of patients at higher risk for stroke,” says Handschu.

Here are 15 little-known Stroke symptoms Doctors Wish Everybody Knew

Weak facial muscles

Portrait Of Senior Man Suffering From Stroke

Weak facial muscles are common for people just about to experience a stroke and in people post-stroke. This occurs when the nerves that control facial muscles become damaged. Facial palsy is a loss of muscles in a portion of the face while the limbs still function perfectly.

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