What does a stroke feel like?
September 30, 2019 9:57 PM   Subscribe

You know when you hold your wrist super tight and let blood pool in your hand, how your hand feels all full of blood, stiff, and poundy? My head and neck feel like that. Full of pressure. Not painful, but noticeable and weird. How bad is this?

I've been under a TON of stress lately, including family, work, and experiencing racism. Working hard, not sleeping super well. Decided to give myself a month of "eating my feelings" including more high-fat food and caffeine than usual, and have probably gained a pound or two this month.

Last night I felt this pressure-head thing too, and my pulse felt fluttery to me. A medic friend checked my heart rate and blood pressure and they were both fine.

I have some risk factors for stroke, but not many:

Good news: Female, normal weight, gained 50 lbs last year during pregnancy and effortlessly dropped 35 afterwards, nonsmoker, never used the pill, pretty good diet, generally healthy, no diabetes or heart conditions.

Bad news: stressy life, bad sleep, not super active, age 40, partially of West African descent, and both parents have had multiple TIAs and small strokes starting in their 70s.

I can't tell if I'm having kind of a low-grade panic attack, or a painless headache (is that a thing? That's what it feels like), or an ischemic warning sign. Any insights?
posted by nouvelle-personne to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Basically the only answer to this is call your doctor, a nurse line, or go straight to the ER. You don’t need to and really shouldn’t diagnose yourself with a stroke before seeking medical attention for sudden circulation problems affecting your head. Just see someone right away and let them figure out what’s going on.
posted by whitewall at 10:33 PM on September 30, 2019 [12 favorites]

What you describe doesn’t line up with the warning signs from the American Stroke Association but if you suspect you are having a stroke, please call 911 immediately! This is not the time to ask the Internet for advice. Fast treatment is crucial.
posted by duien at 10:38 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have known a number of people who've had strokes and the answer is it can vary between 'extreme headache', to 'it didn't feel like anything', they didn't know until well afterwards. Typical stroke symptoms to be worried about are:

- Drooping of the face, especially on one side
- Loss of strength or ability to move limbs, especially on one side of the body
- Slurred speech or inability to make one's self understood (disordered speech)
- Headaches, head pain

As the others have said, if you're concerned, you should seek medical attention now. If it is a stroke or something like it, you need to act fast.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:10 PM on September 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I had what you're describing and it was an episode of Atrial Fibrulation. Is there a reason you can't go to Urgent Care or your doctor? You'll be sent to the ER if that's where you need to be.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:03 AM on October 1, 2019 [5 favorites]

Go to the A&E. I've had TIAs, mini-strokes, and they can sort of feel like that although it may also be a heart thing. It could also just be your very first migraine or a panic attack, but the important thing is:

you need beep-beep machines to find out. This is not something you can figure out with the internet or a friend. You need a machine that goes bing! and can look at veins and stuff inside your head and ribs and we have those now! And Good Doctors really like to give examinations to women coming in with those symptoms because you meet the criteria and they want to rule out the possibilities and are Very Happy when you turn out to only have a migraine and walk out fine.

You are NOT wasting their time. My neurologist used to calm-yell at me for not going into the ER enough and pointed out that if I had gone in earlier when I first had symptoms I would have been diagnosed much earlier. And the times I went in and it was "just a migraine" - he said those were great visits, really good news and what the ER is also for.

posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:42 AM on October 1, 2019 [23 favorites]

Doctor. Now. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go to the hospital.
posted by bilabial at 5:06 AM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Doesn’t sound like a typical stroke, but it does sound like any of numerous other things (malignant hypertension, uncontrolled diabetes, early renal failure, off the top of my head) which are just as fatal if left untreated.

Medical review today. GP/walk-in if you can get a same day appointment (insist they dip your urine, check your BP and send routine bloods). ER if you can’t otherwise be seen today.
posted by tinkletown at 5:53 AM on October 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe you're fine (of course we all hope you are!) But if you're not, and you did not seek treatment because of what your medic friend said (or what we said here), think how they (and we) would feel.

This is a time to take care of yourself. Urgent Care would tell you if you needed to go to the ER, right? You could star there.

(Edited to add, I hope you come back and tell us you're all right!!)
posted by beandip at 10:40 AM on October 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

A stroke is a medical emergency. This doesn't sound like a stroke to me necessarily, but I have VERY little to base that on besides what you wrote here. You need to go to the hospital if you suspect you're having a stroke. You only have so long until the damage becomes permanent or worse.
posted by Amy93 at 6:43 PM on October 2, 2019

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