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Mild Stroke vs. Severe Stroke: What's the Difference?

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Nov 19, 2022

    Mild Stroke vs. Severe Stroke: What's the Difference?

    A stroke is a serious condition that occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain. The symptoms of stroke can vary widely, depending on whether it’s a mild stroke vs severe stroke.

    But regardless of the severity, experiencing a stroke is a serious health concern, and should never be ignored.

    What is a mild stroke?

    What most people commonly call a “mild stroke” is known medically as a transient ischemic attack or TIA.

    A TIA is a type of stroke wherein there is a brief interruption of blood flow to the brain, spinal cord, or even the retina. Despite being a brief interruption, it can cause stroke-like symptoms, but not necessarily cause permanent brain damage or disability.

    Despite this, TIAs should not be ignored. This is because they are usually a precursor to a stroke, and should be taken as a sign that a serious stroke might be coming.

    The symptoms of a mild stroke versus severe stroke can be pretty similar, which is the reason why people can sometimes mistake it for a severe stroke.

    Here are some of the symptoms:

    • Feeling numb or weak on one side of the body.
    • Difficulty understanding other people, or difficulty talking.
    • Experiencing double vision, or difficulty seeing in either one or both eyes.
    • Dizziness, nausea, or loss of balance.

    The symptoms of a minor stroke often last only a few minutes, but it is not uncommon for the symptoms to last several hours.

    Treatment for a mild stroke is generally the same as a severe stroke, especially since it is a warning sign of a severe stroke. If you experience the symptoms of a mild stroke, be sure to go to the doctor as soon as possible to seek treatment and hopefully prevent a severe stroke from happening.

    What is a severe stroke?

    As the name implies, a severe stroke is a serious condition. It differs from a mild stroke in that the symptoms of a severe stroke can be more critical, usually last longer, and can cause serious and permanent damage. In some cases, it can even be fatal.

    What happens during a severe stroke is that the blood flow to the brain gets cut off completely.

    The brain needs blood to function properly and to survive, and even a little interruption in the blood flow can have catastrophic consequences.

    The symptoms of a stroke can be pretty unpredictable, and it can also happen very quickly.

    Here are some of the possible symptoms that someone having a stroke could experience:

    • Numbness, especially on one side of the body.
    • Confusion, or difficulty understanding speech.
    • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes.
    • A sudden and severe headache without any apparent cause.
    • Loss of balance or coordination, dizziness, or nausea.

    As you can see, the symptoms of a severe stroke are very similar to that of a mild stroke. This is the reason why mild strokes are sometimes mistaken for severe strokes and vice versa.

    When it comes to strokes, every second counts. This is why if you feel that you might be having a stroke, you need to seek help immediately. Don’t attempt to take yourself to the hospital, and quickly look for someone to assist you instead.

    The sooner you can get treated, the better the outcome would be, and the less damage there would be to your brain.

    What are the differences between mild stroke vs severe stroke?

    For the most part, the differences between a mild stroke and severe stroke are mostly in the effects that they can have on the body.

    Mild strokes don’t necessarily cause permanent damage, while severe strokes are life-threatening or can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.

    In terms of symptoms, the symptoms of mild strokes last shorter compared to that of severe strokes. However, this should not reinforce the assumption that having a mild stroke is “okay.”

    Despite being called “mild,” TIAs should be taken seriously. TIAs are usually a precursor to a more severe stroke, so they should never be ignored.

    An important thing to remember when it comes to strokes is that you should not focus on whether you are experiencing a mild stroke or a severe stroke.

    Both types of stroke should be treated very seriously, and it is important to seek help as soon as you feel the symptoms happening.

    How can strokes be prevented?

    Here are some important tips when it comes to preventing strokes:

    • Be sure to eat a balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat. When it comes to meat, try to eat more lean meats such as fish, and fewer fatty meats such as beef.
    • Exercise for at least 150 minutes each week. Exercise helps your body stay fit and healthy, and can lower your risk for stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
    • If you are a smoker, it would be best to quit as soon as possible. Smoking increases your risk for stroke, as well as a host of cardiovascular diseases and cancers. So it would be best to quit immediately.
    • Lastly, be sure to keep tabs on your health. Undergoing a full physical checkup each year can help you know if you are at risk for certain diseases, and gives you an idea of your current state of health.

    Learn more about stroke symptoms, management and prevention, here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Nov 19, 2022

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