How a Stroke is Diagnosed

Stroke DiagnosisIf you have had a stroke, or have had stroke warning signs or risk factors, it is very important to seek prompt medical attention.  Your doctor will work with you to find the cause of your problem and determine the best treatment.  Even if your symptoms resolve without treatment, you should still discuss them with your doctor. Don’t assume that a problem is unimportant if it goes away on its own. Never try to make a diagnosis by yourself.

IMPORTANT:  If you or someone you know is having stroke symptoms now, call 911!  Stroke is a medical emergency.

The first step in understanding your problem is to obtain a careful medical history. Your doctor or health care provider will ask questions about your situation. If you can’t communicate, a family member or friend will be asked to provide this information. Your doctor will ask about the symptoms you are having now and have had in the past, previous medical problems or operations, and any illnesses which run in your family. Be sure to bring a current list of all the medicines you take (prescription and non-prescription.) If your symptoms lasted only a while, your doctor might also want to talk with someone else who was with you at the time.

The next step is a thorough physical examination. Your doctor will check your pulse and blood pressure, and examine the rest of your body (heart, lungs, etc). The neurologic examination includes detailed tests of your muscles and nerves. The doctor will check your strength, sensation, coordination and reflexes. In addition, you will be asked questions to check your memory, speech and thinking.

Depending on the results of your evaluation, your doctor may need additional tests to fully understand your problem. You may also be referred to a medical specialist in brain disorders (neurologist), brain surgery (neurosurgery) or another area. Be patient. Sometimes it takes a while to discover the cause of stroke symptoms, and sometimes the cause of a stroke cannot be determined. Be sure to discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor or health care provider.