Conditions That Can Cause Stroke-Like Symptoms
When you’re having a stroke, every minute counts. Fast treatment can lessen the brain damage that strokes can cause and improve survival rates, while lowering disability rates. In fact, many of the most effective treatments are only available if the stroke is diagnosed within three hours of symptoms.
A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to any region of the brain is reduced or blocked completely. Strokes are the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States, according to the American Stroke Association. A stroke can happen to anyone, at any age, so it’s important to know the warning signs.
If you’re experiencing any of these common stroke symptoms, remember BE FAST and call 9-1-1 or closest emergency room.
- Balance – Dizziness, trouble walking, loss of balance and coordination
- Eyes - Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Face – Facial drooping or severe headache with no known cause
- Arms - Numbness or weakness in the arms
- Speech - Slurred speech, trouble talking or understanding speech
- Time – to call 911
The question is how do you know if you’re having a stroke or something else? There are several conditions that can cause symptoms similar to a stroke, known as stroke mimics. A seizure, high blood pressure and even migraine headaches can cause sudden numbness or weakness.
Understanding stroke-like symptoms
Stroke-like symptoms are neurological symptoms that mimic those of a stroke. These symptoms can vary from person to person, but they often include:
- Sudden Weakness: You may experience sudden numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body.
- Difficulty Speaking: You may have trouble speaking, slurred speech, or difficulty understanding speech.
- Vision Problems: Blurred vision, double vision, or sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes may occur.
- Severe Headache: An intense and abrupt headache, often described as "the worst headache of your life," can be a sign of a stroke or another serious condition.
- Dizziness and Loss of Balance: A sudden loss of balance, unexplained dizziness, or difficulty walking may happen.
Stroke-like symptoms can be alarming and require immediate attention. While not all instances of these symptoms are necessarily indicative of a stroke, it is crucial to be aware of the warning signs and act promptly. In this blog, we will explore what stroke-like symptoms are, the possible causes, and how to respond effectively.
Also see: When Is Eye Twitching a Sign of a Stroke
Seizures are episodes of abnormal brain activity caused by a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. While most people are familiar with the most severe seizure that causes unconsciousness and violent body shakes, there are many other types of seizures that mimic stroke symptoms, such as weakness in one arm or leg, numbness, tingling, temporary confusion, or loss of consciousness.
2. Migraine headaches
Most migraine headaches involve severe pain in the head and neck. However, some migraines can mimic a mini-stroke with symptoms such as, temporary facial paralysis, blurred vision, slurred speech, or weakness or numbness in the arms or legs.
3. High or low blood sugar
Too much or too little sugar in your blood can cause your brain to misfire. Low blood sugar can cause symptoms similar to a stroke, such as dizziness, shakiness, irregular heartbeat or severe headache. High blood sugar, on the other hand, can cause blurred vision, weakness, severe headache and feeling out of it, making it difficult to distinguish high blood sugar from a stroke.
4. Bell’s Palsy
Sudden facial weakness can be a sign of Bell’s Palsy, a condition caused by damaged nerves that help control your facial muscles. Symptoms can include mouth drooping, drooling or trouble closing one eye. Facial weakness can be a very concerning symptom, as it is one of the hallmark signs of a stroke.
5. Brain tumor
A brain tumor is a growth of abnormal cells in the brain. Depending on where it is located, a brain tumor can cause a whole host of different symptoms, some similar to a stroke. You may lose coordination, have trouble speaking or seeing, have weakness in your arms or legs, or develop confusion.
6. Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition that occurs when the immune system attacks nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord. This can cause numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, vision loss and impaired coordination.
7. High blood pressure
High blood pressure emergencies can cause dizziness, numbness, tingling sometimes weakness, as well. If your blood pressure is 180/120 or higher and you are experiences the symptoms listed above, you should visit the emergency room.
Responding to stroke-like symptoms
- Call 911 or Nearest Emergency Room: If you or someone else experiences stroke-like symptoms, call 911 immediately. Time is critical in the treatment of strokes and stroke-like conditions.
- Note the Time: Remember the time when the symptoms started. This information helps medical professionals determine the most appropriate treatment.
- Do Not Ignore Symptoms: Do not dismiss stroke-like symptoms or wait for them to go away. Quick medical intervention can prevent long-term damage.
- Stay Calm: Try to stay as calm as possible while waiting for medical help. Stress and anxiety can exacerbate the situation.
- Do Not Drive: Avoid driving to the hospital. Emergency medical services can provide rapid transportation and the necessary care.
- Inform Medical Professionals: Be sure to inform the healthcare providers about any pre-existing conditions, medications, or relevant medical history.
Preventing stroke-like symptoms
Prevention is always the best approach when it comes to stroke-like symptoms. To reduce the risk of strokes and related conditions:
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Eat a balanced diet, engage in regular physical activity, and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Manage Chronic Conditions: Control high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol with regular check-ups and medications if necessary.
- Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is vital for overall health, including brain function.
- Reduce Stress: Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as meditation, yoga, or talking to a therapist.
Also see: How Dehydration Affects Blood Pressure
What should you do if you develop stroke-like symptoms?
Typically when a person is suffering from a stroke, symptoms are abrupt and appear simultaneously. In many cases, symptoms of a stroke mimic tend to come on gradually. A head CT scan or MRI is the best way to rule out a stroke.
Remember, this blog provides general information and should not replace professional medical advice. That’s why when in doubt, never delay treatment. Get to the emergency room for a medical evaluation. It’s important to call an ambulance so medical staff can begin diagnosis and treatment on the way to the hospital. The consequences of a real neurological emergency can be quite significant. That’s why any stroke-like symptoms should be taken seriously with quick action to save a life — perhaps your own. Please call or visit our Nearest Emergency Room for medical help. We have board-certified physicians, nurses and staff to help you recover and give appropriate treatment and medical advice.
We have ER locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area that are open and here to help you 24/7 If you or your family have a medical emergency.
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