Home Cardiovascular Disease Stroke - Effects of Stroke

Stroke - Effects of Stroke

What are the effects of stroke?

It is possible for a person who has a stroke to suffer little or no brain damage or long-term disability, especially if the stroke is treated promptly. However, stroke can also cause severe brain damage and disability or even death. The type of disability caused by a stroke depends on the extent of brain damage and what part of the brain is damaged.

Stroke may cause paralysis or weakness of one side of the body, an inability to walk or care for yourself, permanent memory problems, mood changes, trouble speaking or understanding speech, problems with eating and swallowing, pain, depression, and other problems. Rehabilitation and medical treatment can help a person recover from the effects of stroke and prevent another stroke from occurring.

What are the effects of a stroke in different areas of the brain?

The brain is a complex organ. Each area of the brain is responsible for a particular function or ability.

Diagram of functions of different parts of the brain
An image of one side of the brain, showing the different areas and the functions they control

The brain is divided into four main parts: the right hemisphere (or half), the left hemisphere, the cerebellum, and the brain stem.

Brain hemispheres
A view of the brain from above, showing the left and right hemispheres (the front of the brain is to the right)

A stroke in the right hemisphere of the brain often causes paralysis in the left side of the body (left hemiplegia). Additionally, a stroke in this part of the brain may cause:

  • Problems with spatial and perceptual abilities. For example, the stroke survivor may misjudge distances and fall or be unable to guide her hands to pick up an object.
  • Impaired judgment and behavior. For example, she may try to do things that she should not attempt to do, such as trying to drive a car.
  • Problems with short-term memory. For example, she may be able to recount events from 30 years ago, but unable to remember what she ate for breakfast that morning.

Someone who has had a left hemisphere stroke may have paralysis on the right side of the body (right hemiplegia). She may also have:

  • Problems with speech and language ( aphasia).
  • Slow and cautious behavior, in contrast to the behavior of a right-hemisphere stroke survivor. She may need a lot of help to complete tasks.
  • Memory problems similar to those of right-hemisphere stroke survivors. For example, she may have trouble learning new information and have poor short-term memory.

A stroke that damages the cerebellum can cause:

  • Abnormal reflexes of the head and torso
  • Coordination and balance problems
  • Visual disturbances, such as blurred speech or double vision
  • Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting

Strokes that occur in the brain stem are especially devastating. The brain stem is the area of the brain that controls all of our involuntary "life-support" functions, such as breathing rate, blood pressure, and heartbeat. The brain stem also controls abilities such as eye movements, hearing, speech, and swallowing. Since impulses generated in the rest of the brain must travel through the brain stem on their way to the arms and legs, patients with a brain-stem stroke may also develop paralysis in one or both sides of the body.

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Filed in Cardiovascular Disease > Stroke