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Are there different warning signs for strokes on the left and right sides of the brain?

To recognize signs of stroke in the left and right sides of the brain, remember the word FAST:

  • F stands for face drooping or numbness
  • A stands for arm/leg weakness or numbness
  • S stands for speech problem
  • T stands for time—get to a medical professional quickly.

Whether a transient ischemic attack (TIA, or warning stroke) or a full-blown stroke, location on the left or right side of the brain commonly cause weakness, loss of sensation, clumsiness, loss of vision and loss of awareness of the right side of the body. If a stroke occurs in the left side of the brain, language comprehension or expression may also become impaired.

People who have had a transient ischemic attack or stroke on the left side of the brain will frequently have aphasia, which is a disturbance of language use. With aphasia, the person is not able to properly understand or express language. You can’t understand what’s spoken or express your thoughts. Other symptoms include loss of vision and decreased awareness of vision from the right side, weakness or clumsiness of the right side of the face, arm or leg, and loss of sensation in the right side of the face, arm or leg.

Symptoms of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack in the right side of the brain include slurred speech, confusion, weakness on the left side of the face, arm or leg, loss of sensation of the left face, arm or leg, and loss of vision from the left sided visual field. Sometimes a stroke on the right side of the brain has a unique symptom called neglect, when you basically are less aware or unaware of your left side.

The symptoms of a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) provide clues about its type and its location in the brain. A stroke on the left side of the brain, for example, may result in problems on the right side of the body, such as paralysis or abnormally slow movements on the right side, facial droop or loss of sensation on the right, or an inability to see objects in the right half of the visual field. Abnormal speech and an inability to speak or understand speech may also result, because these functions are controlled on the left side of the brain. Other left-sided functions may also be affected, including reading, writing or calculating.

People with right-sided strokes may ignore or fail to recognize objects or sensations on their left side or even neglect parts of the left side of their body. There is also usually left-sided muscle weakness, loss of sensation and facial droop on the left. Deficits on the right side of the brain may also interfere with spatial perception, leading to difficulties with common tasks such as eating, drinking, dressing, operating a wheelchair, or reading.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.