A stroke is a cerebrovascular and neurologic condition in which a poor blood supply to the brain causes damage or death of its part. When this happens, the functions that the affected part of the brain was responsible for will be impaired.
The effects of a stroke on the body can vary. Knowing about these can make it easier to identify a stroke when it happens or can simply just provide you with more information on this serious medical condition. So, what are the effects of a stroke? This article will answer that question and many more.
Before you can get into the effects of a stroke, it is essential to understand the condition itself.
Definition of stroke
A stroke, also called a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is a condition when a segment of the brain is starved of blood, which causes the tissue in that segment to die or be damaged. A CVA is typically designated as a cardiovascular disease because it is primarily due to a problem with the blood vessels in the brain. However, it is also a neurological disease as stroke after effects primarily affect the nervous system.
Types of stroke
There are two major types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic.
- Ischemic: This is caused when an artery in the brain is blocked by a clot. Most strokes are this kind.
- Hemorrhagic: This is caused when an artery in the brain bursts, leaking blood around it. This will usually form a mass that compresses the surrounding tissue.
Causes of stroke
An ischemic stroke can be caused by a clot that forms directly in the brain, or one that forms in another part of the body, dislodges, and finds its way to the brain, while hemorrhagic stroke is usually caused due to hypertension weakening arteries or ruptured aneurysms.
Below are some of the risk factors for a stroke:
- Obesity and overweight
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Older age
- Family history of stroke
Symptoms of stroke
Some of the effects of a stroke can be seen almost immediately and these are the symptoms of this condition. These symptoms appear suddenly and include the following:
- Trouble speaking
- Numbness in part of the body, usually on one side
- Muscle weakness in part of the body, usually on one side
- Issues with coordination
- Severe headache
- Visual disturbances
Effects of stroke
What are side effects of a stroke? There are several that can arise and it can take a lot of time for them to resolve, even with active attempts at recovery. The side effects of a stroke can be divided into three broad categories which are:
- and emotional effects.
The physical after-effects of a stroke are those that you can actually observe or feel. These are the stroke effects that affect the physical body and they tend to be the ones that affect independence the most.
Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body
Weakness or paralysis of the muscles on one side of the body is known as hemiparesis. Hemiparesis is one aspect of a stroke, but it can affect independent functioning in so many ways.
Walking will usually require some kind of aid, grasping objects will be affected, and so on.
Troubles with balance and coordination
When the muscles in one of the lower limbs are weak, it can make it very difficult for a person to support themselves or walk unaided. If care isn’t taken, this can result in falls and further injury. In cases where the muscles in the upper limbs are weak, coordination can be affected. Smoothly picking up or placing an object becomes a difficult task, unlike before the stroke.
Difficulty swallowing or speaking
Muscles are responsible for swallowing food, drinks, and saliva. One of the side effects of a stroke is that these muscles can be weakened too. This can make eating food difficult and can also predispose to drooling. Similar muscles in the neck and head are used for speaking. Paralysis or weakness can result in slurred or incomprehensible speech.
Changes in vision or hearing
Among right-side stroke effects, one prominent example is changes in vision. There can be loss of vision in certain fields of the eyes, issues with their movement, or problems recognizing visual stimuli. After a stroke, some patients may have hearing loss, but others may experience auditory overload: a condition where their ears are very sensitive to sound.
Chronic pain or headaches
3 out of every 10 people who have had a stroke deal with pain. This can be in the muscles, joints, and frequently in the shoulder. This may also manifest as a headache.
Among stroke’s effects on the brain are its cognitive effects, which are the ways that it affects thought and intellect.
Memory loss or difficulty with recall
Memory can very frequently be affected after a stroke. A person might find it hard to remember people’s faces or their names, events from the past, and other information that they’d normally know. They can also find it hard to learn new things.
Troubles with language and communication
When the centers in the brain responsible for speech and communication are damaged after a stroke, patients may find it hard to communicate. For instance, they may hear words but not understand what they mean, they may find it hard to find the exact word they want to use, or they may use inappropriate words. This is one of the effects of a stroke seen when the left side of the brain is affected.
Decreased attention span and ability to concentrate
After a stroke, it can be hard to concentrate on tasks and the things in front of you. Problems with the focus can make it difficult to work or even conduct some responsibilities at home.
Difficulty with problem-solving and decision-making
A stroke can make it harder to reason and figure out things that would normally be simple. This isn’t always about things as tough as puzzles. For instance, it might be hard to figure out the order of the steps needed to make coffee, turn on a TV with a remote control, and multitask.
Changes in mood or personality
Changes in mood are one of the common stroke after effects. Mood swings are more common and there may be feelings of deep sadness, grief, anger, and so on. Some of these can be a direct effect of the stroke, but they can also arise from the psychological weight of the disability that the condition brings about.
If you’re wondering, what are the long-term effects of a stroke, they tend mostly to be the emotional effects of the disease. These can last a long time because even after a recovery has begun, a patient may find it hard to cope with the changes in their life.
Depression or anxiety
In the first year after a stroke, 1 out of every 3 patients deals with depression or anxiety. It is clear that this is one of the more prominent side effects of CVA.
These patients can frequently find themselves reacting aggressively to things that they normally wouldn’t have. This is irritability, and it is one of the long-term effects of strokes that can have a toll on caretakers and loved ones.
Feelings of isolation or loneliness
It’s been shown that regardless of the demographic, CVA patients tend to complain of high levels of loneliness. These feelings of isolation can contribute negatively to their mental state, which can impair attempts at recovery.
Changes in self-esteem or self-image
Many patients find themselves functionally disabled in one way or another after a stroke. They have to depend on others for many daily tasks and this can have a negative effect on their self-esteem.
Recovery from stroke
The good thing is that despite all the side effects of a stroke that patients can experience, some of those deficits can be reversed with effective recovery. Only 1 in every 4 stroke patients reaches a level of recovery where they can integrate into life as effectively as non-affected individuals.
After a stroke, there are various recommended forms of treatment attempted at rehabilitating the patient for their functional deficits and getting them back on their feet. What is chosen depends on the exact patient and the stroke after-effects that they exhibit.
Examples of rehabilitation options include:
- Physical therapy: This helps a patient re-establish control, strength, and coordination in their muscles.
- Speech therapy: This helps manage speech, language, and communication deficits.
- Occupational therapy: This focuses on strengthening the ability to perform daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, eating, and writing, to help improve independence.
Stem cell treatment
Even with rehab, the long-term effects of strokes can take a lot of effort, time, and money to get past. Even at that, these forms of rehabilitation focus on “rewiring” the brain and not actually repairing the damage caused by the CVA.
Recovering from a stroke with stem cell therapy provides a promising option for people who desire a quick and effective treatment option, as opposed to months of rehabilitation. They are not a guaranteed cure, but theoretically and for many patients, stem cells provide the unique advantage of being able to promote the growth of neurons, which can effectively repair damaged areas of the brain after a stroke. When combined with the usual forms of therapy, it can be a very effective option.
Get a free online consultation
To learn more about the procedure of stem cell therapy, the expected results, the cost of the treatment, and more, you can contact us for a free consultation with one of our medical experts.
Medical Advisor, Swiss Medica doctor
Coping strategies for stroke survivors
The long-term effects of strokes can take a heavy mental toll on most survivors. If care isn’t taken, this weight can lead to or worsen depression. This is why it is important to find effective coping strategies. You can attempt to follow these to cope better with the condition:
- Take care of your health as much as you can. Use prescribed medication, eat well, and exercise as much as you can. Also, try to quit smoking and alcohol.
- Give yourself time to relax and enjoy life. You can read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, socialize, or be in nature.
- Be ready to try new things. Life won’t be the same and you may need to make many adjustments to your usual way of life. Embrace being flexible.
- Give yourself targets for your recovery. Make sure they are realistic. For example, aim to walk 100m unaided in 3 or 4 months. Tell yourself you’ll be able to write your own letters in a week or two.
Preventing Future Strokes
1 out of every 4 stroke patients will have a second one. It is important to learn how to prevent a stroke from occurring in the future. The key is to embrace a healthier lifestyle and eliminate risk factors. If you have hypertension, eat healthier, take your medication, lose weight, and work out. If you smoke, stop. Find better ways to manage the stress that you deal with. Make sure you get adequate sleep each night. All of these elements can come together to minimize your risk and let you live healthier and happier.
List of References
Reena S. Shah, John W. Cole. Smoking and stroke: the more you smoke the more you stroke. Expert review of cardiovascular therapy, volume 8, issue 7, pages 917-932, 2014.
Matthew R. Chrostek et al. Efficacy of stem cell-based therapies for stroke. Brain Research, volume 1722, article 146362, 2019.
James Dubow, Matthew E. Fink. Impact of hypertension on stroke. Current atherosclerosis reports, volume 13, issue 4, pages 298–305, 2011.
Doris E. Bamiou. Hearing disorders in stroke. Handbook of clinical neurology, volume 129, pages 633–647.
Christopher Byrne et al. Stroke Survivors Experience Elevated Levels of Loneliness: A Multi-Year Analysis of the National Survey for Wales. Archives of clinical neuropsychology : the official journal of the National Academy of Neuropsychologists, volume 37, issue 2, pages 390–407, 2022.
Bruce H. Dobkin. Rehabilitation after stroke. The New England journal of medicine, volume 352, issue 16, pages 1677–1684, 2005.