Stroke Signs and Symptoms

By: Alere Staff

As a patient on warfarin, or brand of warfarin such as Coumadin®, when you hear the term “stroke” a thousand warning lights may go off in your brain. Experiencing a stroke is a great concern of many warfarin patients and something which everyone would like to avoid at all costs. How can you monitor your symptoms and be aware of the signs of stroke?

What Is Stroke?

According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and dispersing blood throughout the brain. It is also the fifth leading cause of death and the number one cause of adult disability within the United States.1 When a stroke occurs, the flow of blood carrying oxygen and other nutrients to your brain is blocked or partially blocked. This can occur in mainly three ways. An ischemic stroke occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel going towards the brain. When a blood vessel ruptures, the stroke is called a hemorrhagic stroke. Patients can also experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called a “mini stroke”, which occurs when a blood clot stops the flow of blood for a short time or blocks a very small blood vessel. The result of all these is the same: your brain cannot get the oxygen it needs to function, resulting in the brain cell loss.1

Catching a Stroke FAST

The faster you know you are having a stroke, the sooner you are able to get medical help, increasing your chances of a better outcome. In order to help you recognize the symptoms of stroke, the American Stroke Association has created an acronym to help spot a stroke early. F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. Just remember:

F: Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?  Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A: Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S: Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred?  Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T: Time to call 9-1-1: If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Some other symptoms of stroke include2:

  • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness or loss of movement in your face, arm or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
  • Sudden vision changes.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
  • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
  • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Symptoms can vary depending on whether the stroke is caused by a blood clot or bleeding as well as where the stroke is occurring and how severe it may be. Since the brain is an extremely complex organ that controls various body functions, when a part of the brain lacks functionality, the body function that part controls won’t work the way it should.1 For example, if the stroke occurs near the back of the brain, issues involving vision will result. Likewise if the right side of the brain is where the stroke occurs, the left side of the body could experience paralysis and you may experience a quick, inquisitive behavioral style.1

A stroke usually happens suddenly but may also occur over hours. You may have mild weakness at first, but over time, you may not be able to move the arm and leg on one side of the body. If several smaller strokes occur over time, you may have a more gradual change in walking, balance, thinking or behavior. It is not always easy for people to recognize symptoms of a small stroke. They may mistakenly think the symptoms can be attributed to aging or the symptoms may be confused with those of other health conditions. It is important to speak to your doctor about your risk of stroke and be aware so you can help yourself, or loved ones, if symptoms of stroke began to occur.

Find out more on Strokes: 


  1. American Stroke Association. January 2015.
  2. Lloyd-Jones D, Adams R, Carnethon M, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2009 update. A report from the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee.Circulation. 2009;119:e21-e181.

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