Updated 23 July 2014


Stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is disrupted, usually by a blood clot.



  • Stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is disrupted, usually by a blood clot.
  • Stroke symptoms may include dizziness, confusion, weakness on one side, co-ordination problems.
  • A bleeding stroke usually causes a sudden, severe headache.
  • Any stroke-like signs should be considered a medical emergency

What is stroke?
Stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is disrupted, cutting off the oxygen supply. After minutes without oxygen, brain cells are permanently damaged, and die if the blood supply is not restored.

Ischaemic strokes result when an artery becomes blocked, usually by a blood clot. Haemorrhagic (bleeding) strokes are caused by bleeding from ruptured arteries in the brain.

What are the symptoms and signs of stroke
A bleeding stroke is usually sudden, and may be heralded by a severe headache, sometimes with a stiff neck, and unconsciousness. Ischaemic strokes are usually more gradual, developing over minutes, hours or days. They may be preceded by a "mini-stroke", or transient ischaemic attack (TIA), which occurs when a blood clot causes temporary stroke-like loss of function.

Stroke symptoms and signs may also include:

  • Paralysis, weakness, numbness or tingling, usually on one side of the body
  • Facial droop
  • Drooling
  • Vision problems
  • Difficulty walking
  • Clumsiness and loss of balance
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty speaking or comprehending
  • Confusion and personality changes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seizure

Get help immediately if:

  • A person shows signs of stroke. Medication that breaks down blood clots, if given as soon as possible after the stroke, can limit permanent brain damage in some cases.
  • You suspect someone has had a TIA i.e. there are stroke-like signs, however temporary or seemingly slight. These also require immediate medical attention.

First aid for stroke
Keep the person calm and still, and sitting or lying with head and shoulders elevated. Keep head and neck cool.

More in Medical

Get a quote


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Live healthier

Medical bills »

GP and money Cut medical bills Medical savings account

Medical scheme: what is a self-payment gap?

Have you exhausted your day-to-day benefits and moved into your self-payment gap? Here's what it means.

Allergy alert »

Allergy myths Cold or allergy? Children and allergies

Allergy facts vs. fiction

Some of the greatest allergy myths and misconceptions can actually be damaging to your health.