Center for Heart & Vascular Health
Long-term Effects of Stroke
The brain is the command center of the human body. Everything your body does is directly related to the signals coming from the brain. The brain controls all aspects of the person, including reading, writing, walking, talking, thinking and seeing, as well as our mood and behavior and the memories we form.
A stroke directly affects the body's command center (the brain) and interrupts normal signals that are sent to the body. In other words, a stroke has the potential to affect any part of who we are and result in problems with intellectual abilities, emotions and personality, in addition to physical disabilities. These are areas which may change the daily life of someone who has suffered a stroke. Below are some effects of stroke other than weakness or difficulty moving the body. Discuss any questions with your doctor.
Speech and language
Problems with speech and language can make it difficult to find the right words to say, to name objects correctly, or to comprehend what others are saying. Some people also may experience problems in related skills such as math, reading or writing. This does not mean these skills are lost forever. Many times, with speech and language therapy, these skills can be relearned or alternate ways of communication are formed.
After a stroke nerves which control swallowing can be impaired so food, drink or medicines can slide into the lungs instead of being swallowed normally. In the hospital, the nurse or speech therapist will perform a test before you eat, drink or swallow pills to make sure it is safe for you. For some people this may be a temporary condition; for others it can be severe and permanent. Your stroke team will work with you and your family to best meet your needs.
Memory, especially short-term memory, can be affected by a stroke. You may not be able to retain what happened five minutes ago or retrieve memories from the past. Strokes can affect verbal memory, such as naming items on a shopping list, or visual memory, such as recognizing faces. A stroke can cause problems with recalling information, but that does not mean new skills cannot be learned and retained.
A stroke can affect the ability to pay attention to one side of the visual field. Even though there may not be vision problems, the inability to pay attention (often to the left side) may cause a person to bump into walls while walking or trip on objects in the path. Sometimes this neglect of space can be so severe patients may deny that a body part even belongs to them or will not use one side of the body despite no actual loss of physical ability. There can also be difficulty with solving problems such as puzzles or drawing. A stroke can also cause problems with reading. Physical and occupational therapy can help in regaining balance and eyesight.
Patients are at high risk of developing emotional problems such as depression and mood swings after a stroke. Depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Symptoms of depression include: persistent sadness, anxiousness or "empty mood," feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, decreased energy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, insomnia or oversleeping, appetite changes and thoughts of suicide. If these symptoms are present, seek help from a medical practitioner. Social workers, pastors, physicians and other counseling services can provide insight during these times. In the hospital, you will be assessed for your risk of developing depression after a stroke in order to provide you with resources after you leave.
Personality changes can occur after stroke. The most common changes are doing things without thinking, social inappropriateness, or a lack of interest in activities. Communication with family and friends is important. Making sure everyone knows these behaviors can occur after a stroke may make it easier to seek help if needed. The most important thing to remember is these changes are usually normal occurrences after a stroke. They can be treated and often overcome in time.