The long-term impact of your stroke depends on several factors, including the location of the obstruction and how much brain tissue is affected. If the stroke occurs toward the back of the brain, some vision disability will likely result.
The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, while the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. As a result, neurological complications will be on the side opposite of where the stroke occurred in the brain.
You may require a long hospital stay, rehabilitation and still have permanent disability. Or, you may return home after just one day and have no lasting problems at all.
Once brain tissue dies, it does not function again. However, with time and rehabilitation, other healthy brain tissue will learn to take over. Stroke rehab and recovery is focused on training the brain to compensate for the stroke.
Left brain stroke effects
- Paralysis or weakness on the right side of the body
- Speech/language problems
- Memory loss
- Vision loss
- Trouble understanding
- Slow, cautious behaviors
Right brain stroke effects
- Paralysis or weakness on the left side of the body
- Vision loss or double vision
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
- Quick, inquisitive behaviors
Changes you may experience
Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
The movement part of the brain is large and affected by many blood vessels, so damage can be widespread.
- Face paralysis can result in difficulty smiling and eating
- Arm weakness can cause difficulty with fine motor tasks
- Leg weakness or paralysis can result in problems walking
Language problem are more common when the stroke happens on the left side of the brain.
- Aphasia: Trouble speaking and understanding, as well as reading and writing
- Expressive aphasia: Unable to get the right words out. They know what they want to say and can understand what other people say, but can’t say what they want to say.
- Receptive aphasia: Can’t understand what other people are saying. They can speak but their words may not make sense. They usually are not aware of the deficit and therefore aren’t frustrated.
- Dysarthria (slurred speech): Able to speak and understand normally, but words are slurred. Often accompanied by facial weakness and swallowing problems. They do not have any problem reading or writing.
Most patients with language deficits are able to improve through speech therapy.
Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
- Weakness in the facial muscles often results in dysphagia because patients aren’t able to control food in their mouth and ensure it goes down the esophagus, rather than the lung.
- Patients may drool, choke, cough or retain food in their mouth without knowing it.
- If the patient inhales food or liquid into their lungs, they may be at risk of getting pneumonia.
- If dysphagia is severe enough, a feeding tube may be placed through the nose into the stomach. While not common, a long-term feeding tube may also be surgically placed directly into the stomach. Most feeding tubes will eventually be removed as swallowing improves.
Some patients may see double (diplopia), have eye movement problems, impaired depth perception, partial blindness in areas of their vision field.
- Changes in sense of touch, ability to feel pain or to sense changes in temperature
- Can make it difficult to recognize objects or even parts of your own body
- May have heightened sense of pain
- May experience numbness, tingling or pain in paralyzed or weakened limbs (paresthesia)
Balance and coordination issues
- Movements may be jerky and uncoordinated.
- May have problems walking and/or trip easily
- Left brain stroke: Patients are more cautious and have slower reactions. They need lots of positive reinforcement about their rehabilitation and improvements.
- Right brain stroke: Patients will be much more impulsive. They may overestimate their abilities, and be less aware of their deficits. This puts them at a higher risk of endangering themselves.
- Depression is a natural reaction to stroke and its resulting disabilities. You and your caregiver should watch for warning signs and seek out a mental health professional right away if you suspect depression.
- You may also have extreme sudden changes in emotions, such as uncontrollable, spontaneous laughing or crying for no reason. This can be embarrassing and frustrating.
- Injury to the brain can cause many emotions, such as fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, sadness and grief. These feelings are a natural response after having a stroke and usually improve over time.
- Caregivers should provide extra support to decrease patient’s frustration during the healing process.
Thinking, memory and problem solving issues
- Stroke damage can result in problems with short-term memory and can dramatically shorten attention span, affecting the ability to comprehend, make plans and learn new tasks.
- You may not be able to do tasks you were once able to, such as balancing a checkbook.
While not common, breathing may be permanently affected. Some patients may need a long-term tube inserted into the trachea (tracheostomy), the airway in the neck leading to the lungs.
Depression warning signs
- Becoming isolated
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Changes in appetite
- Lack of pleasure
- Talk of suicide
Seek help from a health professional or neurologist if above symptoms exist.
For more information about depression or free screening: National Mental Health Association
depression-screening.org or strokeassociation.org/LifeAfterStroke