The lesser known signs of a stroke we should all be aware of

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It’s quite a stat, which might have you running to pop the kettle on, considering that each year in the UK 100,000 people suffer a stroke.

But before you make that brew, ensure you also take time to learn the warning signs of stroke, because when it comes to making a good recovery, timing is everything.

Patients given blood clot-dissolving drugs within 4.5 hours have a much greater chance of recovering without major disability.

For years, the experts have been driving home this message using the acronym FAST:

F: Facial weakness

A: Arm weakness

S: Speech problems

T: Time to call 999

But this just covers the more common signs of stroke – there are others that can be easily missed. So what are they and when should you seek urgent medical attention?


Hiccups are generally nothing more than an annoyance, but Dr Rachel Ward, a GP and BBC Breakfast’s resident doctor, advises that if you have persistent hiccups for more than 48 hours you should seek urgent medical help. “Hiccups that are severe and non-stop can be a sign of stroke,” she warns.

“This occurs when the blood supply to a posterior part of the brain and brain stem is affected by a clot. It should never be ignored.”

Severe headache

“A severe headache can be associated with stroke due to an increase in pressure inside your head,” says Dr Ward. There are three main types of stroke – ischaemic, haemorrhagic, and transient ischaemic which is classified as a ‘mini stroke’.

“A severe headache may be due to bleeding into the brain in a haemorrhagic stroke or swelling of the brain after an ischaemic stroke,” adds Dr Ward. “If you have a severe headache alongside other stroke symptoms or a headache that is different to a normal one and not responding to painkillers, get urgent medical advice.”


If experiencing a stroke, you may fall or suddenly become very clumsy. “This symptom occurs in stroke because your coordination and the balance centres in your brain are being affected,” says Dr Ward.

“If you experience a sudden change in coordination of movements and/ or balance, get medical advice fast.”

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Nausea and dizziness

“Nausea and dizziness can occur when a stroke affects the cerebellum area at the back of the brain,” explains Dr Ward. “This area controls balance, your body’s ability to sense movement and spatial awareness.

“Nausea and dizziness can accompany other stroke symptoms and can also be caused by the increase in pressure in the head. Be concerned if you have severe dizziness/vertigo and nausea that is new and that you haven’t had before.”

Blurred vision

“If parts of your brain that the optic nerves pass through are affected by stroke, your vision will change,” says Dr Ward. “You may experience missing parts in your vision, blurring, or you may not even be aware of a change until the vision is tested.

“Any sudden change in your vision should be assessed as it could also represent other medical emergencies such as detachment of the retina.”

Passing out

Dr Ward says any loss of consciousness should always be treated seriously. “There are many causes of this, many of which are medical emergencies such as heart attacks, stroke, heart blocks and head injuries,” she says. “Any sudden loss of consciousness always requires medical assessment. Also, if you lose consciousness due to stroke, it can signify a very serious outcome.”

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