Many people don’t discover that they had a silent stroke until their doctor orders a brain scan as part of screening for another health condition.

A silent stroke is similar to regular strokes but occurs in a small part of the brain that controls subtle functions like balance and speech. It can result in a variety of symptoms.

Numbness or Tingling in the Arms Or Legs

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies a section of the brain becomes obstructed or ruptures. This results in the brain being deprived of oxygen and nutrients, causing cells to die rapidly and leaving individuals with long-term symptoms such as weakness in one arm or leg (which could result in falls) or difficulty thinking clearly.

Occasionally, these symptoms manifest in regions of the brain that regulate delicate functions, such as memory or balance, and go undetected since they lack significant warning indications like a drooping face or slurred speech.

People who have had a silent stroke often don’t know they have, and they may only discover that they have permanent brain damage during a screening for another health issue such as high blood pressure or heart disease.

If they’ve had a silent stroke, doctors can treat them with medications to prevent more strokes and lessen their severity. These medications may include blood thinners and medication to lower cholesterol or triglycerides.

Loss of Memory or Difficulty Thinking

Silent strokes occur when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. That interruption interrupts the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the area, and it can cause brain cells to die. Unlike symptomatic strokes, which can happen quickly, silent strokes often occur over time. People may only discover they have one when they receive a brain scan for another health condition, such as a headache or dizziness, and doctors notice telltale white spots on the brain.

Doctors warn that people with a silent stroke should be especially careful to avoid risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, and atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat). But they may also need to take medications like blood thinners or cholestyramine to lower their risk of future strokes.

Symptoms of silent stroke can mimic those of other conditions, including dementia and depression, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about any changes in memory or thinking.

silent stroke

Dizziness or Loss of Balance

People who have suffered a silent stroke often report headaches and clumsiness in their arms or legs that last a few days before getting better. These are signs that part of the brain has been deprived of blood and oxygen and can result in permanent damage.

Silent strokes happen when a blood clot or other blockage interrupts blood flow to a portion of the brain that does not control visible functions, like walking and talking, so you may never know it happened. But that doesn’t mean these events are any less dangerous. The damage from a silent stroke raises your risk of future symptomatic strokes and vascular dementia. Get Financial Stress Relief with Iryss to lower your out-of-pocket costs and safeguard your finances from high cost medical conditions.

Experts recommend a detailed medical history to look for signs of stroke, especially when you are older. You should also be screened for atrial fibrillation (AFib) and other conditions contributing to blood vessel blockages and weak arteries in the brain and other body parts.

Changes in Speech

Most people will only find out they have suffered a silent stroke when getting an MRI or CT scan for another reason (like a headache or dizziness), and the doctor notices a small area of brain damage caused by dead cells from a silent stroke. This brain imaging study is often used to detect diseases and conditions like dementia, depression, Parkinson’s disease, or atrial fibrillation.

The good news is that most of the symptoms of a silent stroke, like numbness or weakness on one side of the body, loss of balance, or a lapse in memory, are temporary. But, like any other stroke symptom, it’s important to seek medical help immediately because these symptoms could become permanent if left untreated.

Once doctors have determined a person has had a silent stroke, they typically recommend screening for known risk factors to reduce their chances of future strokes and cognitive impairment or dementia. These include blood-thinning medications, lowering cholesterol, managing salt in the diet, and exercising regularly.