Everyone's stroke is different
The effects of stroke are varied, and depend on the location and severity of the damage to the brain. Stroke affects everyone differently. Some effects may lessen over time, but others may need more practical and sustained help to recover and adapt.
Common symptoms and effects of stroke:
The Stroke Association provides a comprehensive range of resources and information sheets about the effects of stroke, but here we list a summary of likely effects you may experience after stroke:
Movement and balance
A loss of movement in limbs on one side of the body is common, and is known as “hemiplegia”. Other muscles in the body can also be affected – leading to problems sitting and balance. Sometimes the stroke may just cause a weakness in the arm and leg: this is known as “hemiparesis”. Sometime the paralysis may affect part of the face and head, and this can create difficulty in eating, drinking and talking. Dysphagia or swallowing problems are common, especially early on
Dysarthria is when speech can become distorted, slurred or indistinct. However, people can still read, write and understand what they are saying and what is being said to them.
Aphasia (sometimes known as Dysphasia) is a communications disability and includes difficulties understanding or expressing spoken and written language and sometimes numbers
Vision and hearing
Depending upon which part of the brain is damaged, a range of sensory problems can occur, including a loss of or disturbances to hearing and vision, and there may be damage to the way the brain forms pictures from what our eyes see.
Memory and thinking
Problems with concentration and memory are very common, making it difficult to read, remember what has been said to you, perform familiar actions or respond to what is going on around you.
Pain and headaches
Muscle weakness can lead to stiffness, while headaches can result if there has been swelling of the brain. Some people experience shooting pains or burning sensations in the affected limbs.
A stroke can cause a loss of bladder or bowel control, or the urge to go is so sudden that there is no time to reach a toilet.
The feeling of weariness, especially immediately following a stroke, can be quite extreme – partly because the body is trying to heal itself, but also because of the additional effort needed to attempt everyday actions.
Taste and smell
A stroke can distort one’s senses, making food and drink taste odd or even unpalatable.
You may find yourself feeling "over-emotional" after stroke, for example, uncontrolled crying or even laughing inappropriately. This usually passes quickly.
Emotional and psychological problems
Feelings of anxiety, frustration, anger and confusion are understandable following a stroke, and up to 40% of stroke affected people can suffer depression and anxiety as they come to terms with what has happened to their minds, bodies and their lives.
Sometimes people feel “different”, almost as if they have had a change of personality. This can strain relationships and requires understanding, support and time for adjustment.
The fact that parts of the brain have been damaged can trigger a number of other conditions – including epilepsy. Auditory and visual hallucinations can occur, and in some rare cases the brain can be so badly damaged that “locked-in syndrome” occurs, and they can only move their eyes.
An "earthquake" in the brain
The effects of a stroke are many and varied - as with any acquired brain injury, every stroke is different depending on where in the brain it occurs. The effect on the life of the person who has had the stroke, and on their family, can seem as disruptive as an earthquake. In an instant, every aspect of daily life can be affected and it can be hard to come to terms with the sudden changes in your life. A stroke can cause physical, emotional and social upheaval for the affected person, as well as for family and friends. Find out more about how Bristol After Stroke can help you here