HomeHealthMini-strokes: How to spot the signs

Mini-strokes: How to spot the signs

Although strokes are more likely as you age, they can happen at any time.

Alexis Kolodziej, an executive director at the Stroke Association (stroke.org.uk), explains that while most people who have a stroke are older, younger people can have them too, including children. Around 400 children in Australia have a stroke every year.

And while the median age for stroke in Australia is around 75 years, one in every four occurs in a person who is younger than 65.

“There’s no way to know whether you’re having a full stroke or a mini-stroke, and if you get any symptoms ideally you should call 000, as you normally need to get urgent treatment,” advises Ms Kolodziej.

Strokes happen when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off, either through a clot or a bleed, killing brain cells. The resulting brain damage can affect speech and movement, and how you think and feel. The effects depend on where in the brain the stroke occurs, and the size of the damaged area.

Ms Kolodziej explains that a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) is the same as a stroke, except the symptoms last only a short time. However, it’s a warning that you’re at risk of having another stroke, with the risk greatest in the first days and weeks after the TIA, and Ms Kolodziej stresses it’s important to find out what caused it.

“You can get on top of any key risk factors such as high blood pressure or a hole in the heart, and receive treatment to reduce the risk of you going on to have a full stroke,” she says.

Whatever the type of stroke or the reason it happens, Ms Kolodziej stresses it’s vital to know how to spot the signs, as prompt medical attention can prevent further brain damage.

Ms Kolodziej says the FAST test can help you recognise the most common signs of a stroke, including:

Facial weakness

Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped? “If you have sudden facial weakness – maybe your face drooping on one side – it’s a common sign,” says Ms Kolodziej. “Normally, when it’s face drooping it’s quite obvious, but we often hear stories of people trying to explain symptoms away.”

Arm weakness

According to Ms Kolodziej, this may be someone not being able to raise both arms and keep them there.

Speech problems

Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say? Ms Kolodziej says: “If slurred or disordered speech suddenly comes on or you wake up and it’s there, you should be calling 000 because it’s a key risk factor and it’s definitely not worth waiting to see if it resolves itself.”

Time to call 000

If you see any of the three signs, you should ring 000 immediately. “Treatment needs to be delivered within four to five hours,” stresses Ms Kolodziej. “Time is of the essence, as the sooner you get treatment, the better outcome you have. It doesn’t have to be all three of the symptoms – if you have just one, you should call for an ambulance.”

In addition to the FAST symptoms, other possible signs of a stroke include:

Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight

“These symptoms almost always come on suddenly,” stresses Ms Kolodziej, who says vision problems may be in one or both eyes.

Sudden memory loss or confusion

“Again, this is very sudden, and that’s what differentiates it from something that might get worse over time,” says Ms Kolodziej.

Weakness or numbness

There may be weakness or numbness on one side of the body, says Ms Kolodziej. “If the stroke is on one side of the brain, then it’ll be the other side that’s affected. For example, all of a sudden someone might have a really intense feeling of pins and needles down one side of the body.”

Dizziness could be another potential symptom. (Alamy/PA)

Dizziness or a sudden fall

Dizziness, or even falling in older people, can be quite common, and Ms Kolodziej warns: “When people have milder symptoms, that’s when there’s a real risk of them saying, ‘Maybe it’s just a funny turn, I’ll wait and see’. It’s really important that people know it’s just as important with a TIA as it is with a full stroke to get urgent medical attention.”

Sudden severe headache

This wouldn’t usually be a ‘normal’ headache, but one that comes on very quickly and is severe, explains Ms Kolodziej.

Were you aware of the signs of a stroke? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

– With PA

Also read: Six golden rules to reduce your risk of having a stroke


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