Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Symptoms - Stroke

Emergency action required: Call 112 or 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance if:

  • you think you or someone else is having a stroke

Even if the symptoms disappear while you're waiting for the ambulance, it's still important to go to hospital for an assessment.

After an initial assessment in the emergency department (ED), you may need to be admitted to hospital for a more in-depth assessment. Specialist treatment may also begin if this is needed.

Symptoms of a stroke that disappear quickly and in less than 24 hours may mean you had a transient ischaemic attack (TIA). A TIA should be treated as a medical emergency to reduce your chances of having a stroke.

Recognising the signs of a stroke

The signs and symptoms of a stroke can vary from person to person, but usually begin suddenly.

Different parts of your brain control different parts of your body. Your symptoms will depend on the part of your brain affected and the extent of the damage.

Remember the main stroke symptoms with the word FAST:

  • Face - their face may have dropped on 1 side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
  • Arms - the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them raised because of weakness or numbness in 1 arm.
  • Speech - their speech may be slurred or hard to understand, or the person may not be able to talk at all, despite appearing to be awake. They may also have problems understanding what you're saying to them.
  • Time - it's time to call 112 or 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

It's important for everyone to be aware of these signs and symptoms.

This is especially important if you live with or care for somebody in a high-risk group. This could be someone who is older, or has diabetes or high blood pressure.

Other possible symptoms

Symptoms in the FAST test identify most strokes. But sometimes a stroke can cause different symptoms.

Other symptoms and signs may include:

  • complete paralysis of 1 side of the body
  • sudden loss or blurring of vision
  • being or feeling sick
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • difficulty understanding what others are saying
  • problems with balance and co-ordination
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • a sudden and very severe headache resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
  • loss of consciousness

But there may be other causes for these symptoms.


Get urgent medical advice if you have any of these symptoms.

Transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

The symptoms of a TIA, also known as a mini-stroke, are the same as a stroke. But the symptoms tend to only last between a few minutes and a few hours before disappearing completely.

Although the symptoms do improve, a TIA should never be ignored as it's a serious warning sign of a problem with the blood supply to your brain. It means you're at an increased risk of having a stroke in the near future.

Phone 112 or 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance if you or someone else have TIA or stroke symptoms.

If a TIA is suspected, you will be offered aspirin to take straight away. This helps to prevent a stroke.

Even if the symptoms disappear while you're waiting for the ambulance to arrive, an assessment in a hospital should still be done. You should be referred to see a specialist within 24 hours of the start of your symptoms.

If you think you may have had a TIA before, contact your GP, local hospital, or out-of-hours services as soon as possible.

Page last reviewed: 28 June 2023
Next review due: 28 June 2026