Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Stroke symptoms

If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Even if the symptoms of a stroke disappear while you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive, you or the person having the stroke should still go to hospital for an assessment. If the symptoms disappear, it may mean you have had a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) but you could be at risk of having a full stroke at a later stage.

After an initial assessment, you may need to be admitted to hospital to receive a more in-depth assessment and, if necessary, begin receiving specialist treatment.

Recognising the symptoms of a stroke, using 'FAST'

The signs and symptoms of a stroke vary from person to person but usually begin suddenly. Since different parts of the brain control different parts of the body, your symptoms will depend upon the part of your brain affected and the extent of any damage.

The main stroke symptoms can be remembered with the word 'FAST': Face-Arms-Speech-Time.

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
  • Arms – the person with the suspected stroke may not be able to lift one or both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness.
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.
  • Time – it is time to call triple zero (000) immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

Watch this video from the Stroke Foundation to help you identify the most common signs of stroke.


It is important for everyone to be aware of these signs and symptoms. If you live with or care for somebody in a high-risk group, such as someone who is elderly or who has diabetes or high blood pressure, being aware of the symptoms is even more important.

The symptoms described in the FAST test will identify about 9 out of 10 strokes.

Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • paralysis, numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially in one side of the body - try lifting both arms over the head at the same time; if one falls down, it could be a sign of a stroke
  • sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, or seeing double
  • dizziness and vomiting
  • communication problems, difficulty talking and understanding what others are saying
  • slurred speech
  • problems with walking, balance and co-ordination
  • a sudden, severe headache, unlike any the person has had before, especially if associated with neck stiffness
  • difficulty swallowing
  • fainting (in severe cases).

'Mini-stroke' or transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

The symptoms of a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) are the same as for a stroke and last from between a few minutes to a few hours. They then disappear completely. However, never ignore a TIA because it is a serious warning sign that there is a problem with the blood supply to your brain.

There is a greater risk of having a full stroke within the 4 weeks following a TIA. If you have had a TIA, you should contact your doctor or local hospital as soon as possible.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your stroke symptoms, check with healthdirect's online Symptom Checker for advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).



Last reviewed: July 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 1111 results

Improving stroke outcomes | myVMC

Symptoms of stroke, prevention and treatment advances including blood thinning medications and brain scans, explained by a doctor in this medical video.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Stroke

A stroke occurs when an artery supplying blood to a part of the brain becomes blocked or bursts.

Read more on WA Health website

Depression and stroke

Having a stroke can result in many changes. On a physical level, it can lead to people finding it difficult to move and swallow. Having a stroke can also cause stress, worry and sadness.

Read more on beyondblue website

Types of stroke Stroke Foundation - Australia

Information about stroke

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Depression and anxiety after stroke

Having a stroke can result in many changes. On a physical level, it can lead to people finding it difficult to move and swallow. Having a stroke can also cause stress, worry and sadness, and affect the way in which people think and feel. There is a strong link between depression, anxiety and stroke.

Read more on beyondblue website

Defuse Stroke Stroke Foundation - Australia

Information about stroke

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Symptoms of heart attack & stroke in women | Jean Hailes

Knowing the symptoms of heart attack and stroke may not only save your life it may also save the life of another. Symptoms of heart attack in women can be different to men and include pain and pressure in the chest, neck, arm, jaw, shortness of breath, di

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Childhood stroke Stroke Foundation - Australia

Information about stroke

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Treatment for stroke Stroke Foundation - Australia

Information about stroke

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Effects of stroke Stroke Foundation - Australia

Information about stroke

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback