Know the Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

Leesburg, VA – Since time is critical in stroke treatment, recognizing the signs of a stroke can save a life. The faster a stroke patient gets to the emergency room, the better chance for a positive outcome.

Signs of Stroke in Men and Women

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

“It’s really important that people be aware of the signs and symptoms of a stroke,” said Dennis Bernier, DO, Vice Chair of Emergency Medicine at Inova Loudoun Hospital. “A facial droop, particularly on the lower side or one side of the face. Arm symptoms, so if you ask somebody to hold their arms out, if one arm drifts, that can be a sign of a stroke. Speech changes, sudden onset slurred speech, can be another sign.”

F.A.S.T. is an acronym used to remember those symptoms: face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, and time to call 911.

Stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked. Without oxygen, that part of the brain starts to die, and can cause sudden numbness or weakness, confusion, dizziness or a sudden severe headache.

“Stroke is a disease process that comes in two forms,” commented Dr. Bernier. “The most common form is from a decrease in blood flow to a particular part of the brain. That’s an ischemic stroke. The other type of stroke, much less common, would be a bleeding stroke, where a blood vessel is bleeding within the brain.”  Ischemic strokes account for 87 percent of all strokes.

In the U.S., stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability. On average, someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds.

 “If you’re fearing a stroke, it’s really important to know there is time-dependent treatment. So you need to be assessed quickly, either at a free-standing emergency department or hospital emergency department,” said Dr. Bernier. “‘Time is brain,’ as they say. Absolutely, every minute counts. Millions of brain cells are at risk for every few seconds that pass in an acute ischemic stroke.”

In July 2019, all five Inova hospitals received American Heart Association / American Stroke Association “Get With the Guidelines” awards for stroke care.

Inova Loudoun Hospital has been recognized with the Gold Plus and Target: Stroke Elite Plus Honor Roll award by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. An advanced level of stroke recognition, it acknowledges hospitals for their compliance with the quality measures within the Get With the Guidelines Stroke Program. In 2017 Inova Loudoun Hospital was re-certified as a Joint Commission Certified Advanced Primary Stroke Center. Additionally, the Inova Emergency Room – Leesburg and Inova Emergency Room – Ashburn were certified as Acute Stroke Ready Hospitals (ASRH). Certification as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center and an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital is held by only a small percentage of hospitals nationwide. The Ashburn and Leesburg facilities are the 2nd and 3rd in the state of Virginia to achieve the ASRH designation.

About Inova
Inova is Northern Virginia’s leading nonprofit healthcare provider, employing more than 18,000 team members and serving more than 2 million individuals annually through an integrated network of hospitals, primary and specialty care practices, emergency and urgent care centers, outpatient services and destination institutes such as the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute, Inova Schar Cancer Institute and Inova Neuroscience and Spine Institute. Our mission is to provide world-class healthcare – every time, every touch – to each person in every community we have the privilege to serve. Founded in 1956 as the Fairfax Hospital Association, Inova has grown with its surrounding community and the region to provide a full spectrum of health services, including Northern Virginia’s only Level 1 Trauma Center and Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Its hospitals have a total of 1,800 licensed beds. 

Four of Inova’s five hospitals have received five-star rankings from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; they are the only hospitals in the Washington, DC region to have earned the highest rating from the federal agency. To achieve its mission of providing world-class healthcare to a diverse community, Inova is home to prominent clinicians and scientists who drive innovation to improve patient care, prevent disease and promote wellness. More information and statistics about Inova can be found at

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