What to expect after a stroke

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What to expect after a stroke

The aftermath of a stroke is often faced with fear, apprehension and uncertainty of what to expect for your future.  Depending on the severity of a stroke, most stroke victims will have life changes to face and will likely have to relearn how to gain control and independence in everyday living situations.

Each stroke victim is unique.  For some, only mild conditions develop that very likely will improve and resolve with time and rehabilitation.  For others, their post-stroke life may be vastly different with more permanent changes.  Here are some side effects of stroke that may linger for months or years with some being persistent and others that may improve with help:

·      Weakness

Weakness is a common side effect most victims of stroke will experience.  Generally, one side of the body will be affected which is called hemiparesis, while complete paralysis of one side of the body is called hemiplegia.

Areas of the body affected by weakness can include the face, arm, or leg or a combination of all three. The cause of weakness is due to damage to one side of the rain in one or more of the regions that control motor function.  Survivors of stroke will have more pronounced weakness right after the initial event whereas weakness in long-term survivors will become less severe.

Working with a physical therapist exercises who can make suggestions of ways to gradually help build-up and maintain strength can go a long way in fighting off weakness.

·      Dizziness with balance problems

It is not unusual for stroke survivors to have issues with dizziness or balance problems.  Every survivor will have different ways in which dizziness affects them but some describe it as feeling light-headed, off balance, or having the sensation that the room is spinning.  The problem of dizziness should stabilize itself within six months.  However a stroke involving the brainstem or the cerebellum is more likely to result in persistent dizziness and trouble maintaining balance and coordination.

To effectively combat dizziness and a feeling of being unbalance, physical therapy is necessary to provide balance exercises to perform regularly at home to maximize your sense of balance while reducing dizziness.

·      Speech problems

A common side effect of stroke, at least initially, is aphasia or trouble speaking or understanding words due to damage to the brain.  If the dominant side of the cerebral cortex (usually the left side) was affected, a stroke survivor may have difficulty forming words.  Another common speech problem is dysarthria which is where a stroke survivor cannot speak clearly due to weakness and diminished coordination of the face and mouth muscles after a stroke.

Working with a speech pathologist soon after a stroke can help immensely to regain either full speech like before the stroke or at least good improvement than what it was after the onset of the stroke.

·      Vision changes

There can be several changes with vision after a stroke including double vision, jerking of the eyes, and loss of vision.  These tend to be the most common visual changes after a stroke however some stroke survivors can lose vision in the center of the visual field while others may lose the ability to see color.

·      Cognitive deficits

The severity of cognitive deficits will vary widely among survivors of a stroke.  There could be problems of loss of memory issues, trouble with problem solving, and difficulty understanding concepts.  An individual is likely to have greater cognitive deficits according to the severity of the stroke. 

·      Behavioral changes

It is not unusual to notice changes in the personality of someone who has had a stroke. New behaviors might include a lack of inhibition where they may behave inappropriately, lack of empathy, loss of sense of humor, jealously, and anger.

·      Urination problems

Incontinence is another commonly experienced after a stroke.  To determine the extent of issues with incontinence, a full continence assessment should be done. Even though incontinence can be embarrassing and inconvenient, bladder control can be helped with medical management.

·      Difficulty swallowing

Almost fifty percent of stroke survivors will have some problems with chewing and swallowing food.  Because of this, it is necessary to do a speech and swallow evaluation to identity the extent of any swallowing issues after a stroke.  Difficulty in swallowing can be a potentially life-threatening problem as it can lead to aspiration pneumonia, choking, or breathing obstruction problems.  A speech pathologist can be a medical professional to determine swallowing issues and to make recommendations on preventing any dangerous situations when eating or drinking.