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Getting the facts: Can symptoms of stroke come and go?

Getting the facts: Can symptoms of stroke come and go?

Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability among Americans, affecting about 800,000 people each year. You know that the symptoms of stroke are a sign that emergency care is needed, but can symptoms of stroke come and go?

When a stroke strikes, immediate medical attention is needed to limit damage to the brain. In most cases, the symptoms come on suddenly, making it obvious that a stroke is occurring, but sometimes, symptoms may quickly appear and then disappear, only to return later.

If stroke symptoms stop, is it still an emergency? The short answer is yes. Read on as our East Jefferson General Hospital team explains why.

What a stroke is

A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted. There are two primary kinds of stroke—ischemic stroke, which is the most common, and hemorrhagic stroke.

Ischemic strokes occur when a blood clot cuts off blood supply to an area of the brain, depriving it of oxygen and nutrients. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel ruptures, flooding the brain with blood.

Each type of stroke causes damage to brain cells, and the longer a stroke is left untreated, the more damage occurs. When someone exhibits stroke symptoms, it’s important to immediately call 911 so emergency treatment can begin on the way to the hospital.

The signs and symptoms of stroke

Because fast action is so critical to treating stroke, everyone should know the signs of stroke. Symptoms can include:

  • Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking
  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, particularly on one side of the body
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Sudden trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination, or dizziness
  • Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes

When you're trying to determine whether someone is experiencing stroke symptoms, check to see if one side of the face droops or they are unable to hold up both arms. Also listen for any slurred speech.

When stroke symptoms appear and then disappear

If the symptoms of stroke appear and then go away, you should still consider it an emergency.

In addition to the two types of stroke outlined above, there’s also something known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), often called a ministroke. To understand what a TIA is, break down its name—it’s like an ischemic stroke, but it’s transient, meaning it’s fleeting, lasting from minutes up to 24 hours. That means that a blood clot cuts off blood supply to the brain, but it resolves without medical intervention.

Even though symptoms clear up quickly, a TIA should be treated as an emergency health issue. Medical attention is needed to verify whether a TIA occurred or if it was a full-blown ischemic stroke.

A TIA may not seem like a significant health issue, but it’s often a warning sign that a stroke will occur in the future. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the people who have a suspected TIA, about 1 in 5 will have a stroke within three months.

Seeking medical attention allows providers to investigate what caused the TIA, such as atrial fibrillation or high blood pressure, and take steps to treat the underlying cause. This immediate intervention can help prevent a stroke.

Treating even fleeting stroke symptoms as an emergency can also help you take steps to lower your risk of stroke in the future. That could be a lifesaving move.

When a stroke occurs, minutes matter. Get comprehensive care for stroke at East Jefferson General Hospital.