Let's Talk About Changes Caused by Stroke

Updated:Dec 9,2015
Your brain controls how you move, feel, communicate, think and act. Brain injury from a stroke may affect any of these abilities. Some changes are common no matter which side of the brain the injury is on. Others are based on which side of the brain the stroke inures.  

What are the most common general effects of stroke?

Hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body) or hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body)
  • Dysarthria (difficulty speaking or slurred speech), or dysphagia (trouble swallowing)
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of emotional control and changes in mood
  • Cognitive changes (problems with memory, judgment, problem-solving or a combination of these)
  • Behavior changes (personality changes, improper language or actions)
  • Decreased field of vision (inability to see peripheral vision) and trouble with visual perception
What are common changes with a left-brain injury?
  • Paralysis or weakness on the right side of the body.
  • Aphasia (difficulty getting your words out or understanding what is being said).
  • Behavior that may be more reserved and cautious than before.
What are common changes with a right-brain injury?

  • Paralysis or weakness on the left side of the body.
  • One-sided neglect, which is a lack of awareness of the left side of the body. It may also be a lack of awareness of what is going on to the survivor’s left. For example, they may only eat from the right side of their plate, ignoring the left side of the plate. 
  • Behavior may be more more impulsive and less cautious than before. 
  • It may be harder for the survivor to understand facial expressions and tone of voice. They also may have less expression in their own face and tone of voice when communicating.
What are common emotional effects of stroke?
  • Depression
  • Apathy and lack of motivation
  • Frustration, anger and sadness
  • Pseudobulbar affect, also called  reflex crying or emotional lability (emotions may change rapidly and sometimes not match the mood)
  • Denial of the changes caused by the brain injury

Will I get better?

In most cases people do get better over time. The effects of a stroke are greatest right after the stroke. From then on, you may start to get better. How fast and how much you improve depends on the extent of the brain injury and your rehabilitation.

  • Some improvement occurs spontaneously and relates to how the brain works again after it’s been injured.
  • Stroke rehabilitation (rehab) programs help you improve your abilities and learn new skills and coping techniques.
  • Rehab begins after the stroke is over and you’re medically stable.
  • Depression after stroke can interfere with rehab. It’s important to treat depression.
  • Improvement often occurs most quickly in the first months after a stroke. Then it continues over years, perhaps at a slower pace, with your continued efforts.

How can I learn more?

  1. Call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653) to learn more about stroke or find local support groups, or visit StrokeAssociation.org.
  2. Sign up to get Stroke Connection magazine, a free magazine for stroke survivors and caregivers at strokeconnection.org.
  3. Connect with others sharing similar journeys with stroke by joining our Support Network at strokeassociation.org/supportnetwork.

We have many other fact sheets to help you make healthier choices to reduce your risk, manage disease or care for a loved one. Visit strokeassociation.org/letstalkaboutstroke to learn more. 

Do you have questions for your doctor or nurse?

Take a few minutes to write your own questions for the next time you see your healthcare provider:

Can other areas of the brain help the damaged part of the brain?

How has my stroke affected me? 

©2015, American Heart Association

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