Can you have a stroke without knowing it?

Can you have a stroke without knowing it?

When you think of a stroke, you probably envision symptoms like loss of vision, speech or movement. However, some strokes initially show no symptoms at all.

These so-called “silent strokes” occur when brain cells are damaged by loss of blood flow. Since the injury affects only a small area of the brain, symptoms are often undetectable, making it difficult to diagnose. The area of the brain affected doesn’t play a role in controlling movement, allowing a silent stroke to go undetected.

Although they are more stealthy, silent strokes are more common than symptomatic strokes and still require medical attention like other strokes.

“A single silent stroke does not cause noticeable symptoms, but the damage is cumulative,” says Dr. Adam Wallace, an interventional neurologist at Aurora BayCare Medical Center. “Ongoing silent strokes can lead to neurological problems, like trouble with your memory or concentration.”

The accumulation of silent strokes over time can lead to symptoms that may be confused with common signs of aging, like trouble balancing, frequent falls, and changes in urination, mood and concentration. However, an MRI or CT scan of the brain will reveal multiple small areas of old injury, leading to a stroke diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, appropriate and proactive medical care can help improve your quality of life and prevent further strokes.

“Symptoms can be treated with physical and speech therapy,” says Dr. Wallace. “Also, healthy lifestyle choices, such as getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, and controlling vascular risk factors, such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, can reduce your risk of future strokes.”

If you suspect you might have experienced a silent stroke, seek medical attention.

Want to learn more about your risk for stroke? Take a free online quiz here.

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About the Author

Margaret Weiner
Margaret Weiner

Margaret Weiner is a senior at Marquette University studying public relations, corporate communications and business administration with a concentration in communication leadership