How painful is a stroke?

Dr. Jeffrey L. Saver, MD

It depends on the type of stroke that is occurring. The most common stroke type, ischemic (blockage) stroke, typically is not painful. Ischemic strokes cause weakness, language, visual and other brain problems, but little or no headache. In contrast, the other major stroke type, hemorrhagic (bleeding)  typicallyis painful. Hemorrhagic strokes typically produce severe headache.

Strokes are painless, but do not let that stop you from getting help. Dial 911 if you are having any of the following sudden symptoms:

  • A feeling of numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg (You might notice it on one side more than the other.)
  • Vision problems in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness or loss of balance; difficulty walking
  • Confusion
  • Problems speaking or understanding what other people are saying
  • Severe headaches without warning or explanation

A stroke is a medical emergency that can result in death or permanent disability. If you go to an emergency room and it turns out not to be a stroke, that is cause for celebration, not embarrassment.

Generally a stroke is not painful. Sometimes you’ll have head pain or neck pain, but as a general rule it doesn’t hurt.

Strokes are typically not painful. There may be headache or neck pain, which indicate a bleeding type of stroke. More commonly symptoms of a stroke include facial drooping, arm weakness, slurred speech or having difficulty coming up with words.

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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.