Cerebral stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. The global incidence has increased by 25% over the past decade. We really notice it in low- and middle-income countries where treatment is difficult. Hemorrhagic or ischemic stroke is the third leading cause of death in such countries.
This condition’s physical, social, and psychological consequences are devastating. They dramatically change a person’s life after a brain disease. The prognosis of life after “a stroke” shows:
- about 90% of survivors of ischemic “stroke” have some form of disability;
- life expectancy after a stroke is 5-7 years shorter.
Is there a normal life after a stroke? Is it possible to exist fully after this severe disease and long medical treatment? Can we be independent and even return to work? In this article, we give useful advice on what to do after discharge from the hospital. So read further to know how to improve health and whether there is life after a serious illness.
What to Expect After a Stroke?
A stroke is an acute disorder of cerebral circulation. It is due to a blockage, compression, or rupture of the blood vessels that carry blood to the brain. It causes brain cells to die because of a lack of oxygen and nutrients. The recovery after a stroke can vary depending on the severity of the stroke and patient’s health. In general, doctors usually observe:
- some degree of weakness;
- numbness or paralysis on one side of the body;
- difficulty speaking or swallowing.
To restore strength and function, neurologists recommend:
- physical therapy;
- speech therapy;
- occupational therapy.
Doctors prescribe medications to prevent blood clots or reduce symptoms after a stroke. Support from family and healthcare providers can be very important during recovery. So, work with a doctor to develop an individualized treatment plan and track progress.
Besides the physical and medical aspects of recovering after a stroke, there are emotional issues. It is common to experience after a stroke:
- other mood changes.
People must seek support from mental health professionals. It is important to do this to address the side effects of a stroke and improve well-being.
Depending on the severity and the person’s functionality level, some people may need:
- require ongoing care;
- help with activities of daily living.
Family members or professional caregivers may need support in these areas. Changes to the home or living environment for safety may also be necessary.
The amount of time people live can vary. You can read more about the long-term effects of a stroke below:
- less than 28 days after a stroke, the risk of death is 30 percent (mostly patients who have had a hemorrhagic stroke);
- after one year, it is 40 percent;
- after five years, the risk increases to 60 percent.
How does a physician determine the prognosis for stroke recovery?
Stroke severity and patient age are essential factors in predicting chances. Doctors measure stroke severity by analyzing:
- neurological abnormalities;
- examining the brain with a CT or MRI scan.
Doctors use the National Institutes of Health Scale (NIHSS) within 24 hours of a stroke to:
- measure neurological impairment;
- predict chances of survival.
Each point a patient scores decreases the chances of normal life after a stroke. The test consists of only 15 questions:
- 0 points if the patient answers correctly;
- 2 points if the patient fails to answer correctly.
If the patient scores up to 10 points, the probability of complete recovery after a stroke within a year is 70%. A score higher than 35 indicates a non-restored blood supply to the brain.
Neurologists also use the 6-step Rankin Scale:
|the first||Minimal impairment|
|the second||Mild impairment – patients can serve themself|
|the third||Mild degree of disability. The patient is able to move about and take care of themselves. But they need help or advice in more complex activities such as paying utility bills, etc.|
|the fourth||The patient is mobile but requires constant care and help|
|the fifth||Patient is not able to move and take care of themself.|
The lower the degree of impairment on the Rankin scale, the fewer side effects from a stroke.
But you may not pay serious attention to the life expectancy put forward by scientists after a stroke. even the official statistics are often wrong about who survives and who does not. Each case is unique. And many reasons influence the recovery. Both the condition of the sufferer himself and treatment and external factors.
Common Side Effects From a Stroke?
Among the predominant neurological disorders after a stroke are:
- partial or complete paralysis;
- loss or defects of speech;
- impairment of vision, hearing, and memory.
Any brain damage is always associated with severe consequences for the person. Untimely medical care and the vastness of the lesion in a stroke result in one in three patients dying. For those who survive, the symptoms after a stroke depend on several factors:
- the extent and localization of the brain lesion;
- speed of care;
- the quality of treatment;
- individual physiological features of the patient: age, concomitant diseases, etc.
Speech impairment can also occur mostly with left-sided brain lesions. In left-handed people, right-sided stroke can also lead to speech impairment. The person cannot control his behavior and becomes aggressive, tearful, and nervous. Post-traumatic epilepsy can also develop. Read below for more details on the most common side effects of a stroke.
Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body
Depending on the location of the brain damage, a stroke can cause:
- partial paralysis;
- complete paralysis on one side of the body.
A stroke makes it difficult or impossible to move an arm or leg. This can also cause difficulties with balance and coordination.
Difficulty speaking or understanding language (aphasia)
A stroke can damage the language centers of the brain. So, it causes difficulty with speech and language. This can include:
- difficulty finding words;
- forming sentences;
- understanding spoken or written language.
It can also lead to communication difficulties. This can be frustrating and isolating for the individual.
Trouble with balance or coordination
Some individuals may experience difficulty with balance or coordination symptoms after a stroke. So walking or performing other activities that need balance is challenging. Physical therapy can help improve balance and coordination.
Problems with memory, thinking, or decision-making
A stroke can cause damage to the areas of the brain responsible for:
- leading to difficulties with attention;
- concentration, and memory retention.
Emotional changes are definitely what to expect after a stroke, such as:
- anxiety, or mood swings.
It occurs as a result of the physical and psychological trauma of the stroke. Mental health support from a therapist can help address these emotional challenges.
This condition can last a few hours to several years. Coma occurs because of damage to the cortex and subcortical substance of the brain. Some go into a coma rapidly, while others go gradually. In the second case, within a few hours:
- the patient yawns frequently;
- general fatigue and malaise;
- pulse changes;
- limbs lose sensation and mobility;
- respiratory activity becomes shallow.
Difficulty with swallowing or eating
Swallowing difficulties, also known as dysphagia, are common symptoms after a stroke. They can increase the risk of complications such as aspiration pneumonia. Neurologists may recommend speech therapy and dietary modifications to help.
Some stroke survivors may experience fatigue or decreased energy levels. So people find it difficult to engage in daily activities or rehabilitation programs. Strategies for managing fatigue can help manage this side effect.
Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
Numbness or tingling sensations on one side of the body is common after a stroke. They can affect the ability to perform certain activities. The doctor may recommend physical therapy and other interventions to help regain function.
Swelling of the brain
One of the most dangerous manifestations of stroke. Symptoms include seizures, psychomotor agitation, headache, nausea, and vomiting against increased intracranial pressure.
Edema has two types:
- Cytotoxic. Brain cells swell due to a deficiency of oxygen and adenosine triphosphate. As a result, membrane pumps do not work properly. Sodium ions enter the cells, and water accumulates.
- Associated with disruption of the outflow of intercellular and interstitial fluids and blood. It occurs when capillaries are damaged.
Long-Term Effects of a Stroke
A stroke occurs when something interrupts blood flow to a part of the brain. It can cause brain damage and long-term effects. The long-term effects of a stroke can vary depending on the severity and location of the stroke.
Loss of sensation
Loss of sensation may occur after a stroke in some regions of the brain. A typical example is numbness in the extremities after a stroke. This may include tingling sensations, poor heat/cold conduction, and more.
The brain also processes everything we see. Damage to the part of the brain responsible for vision can cause serious vision problems. Patients may experience partial blindness.
Spasticity and contractures
Muscle stiffness characterizes spasticity. It is what to expect after a stroke. It occurs when a stroke creates a lack of signals between the brain and the body. When spasticity is severe, it can cause contractures. So the joints become extremely stiff.
Doctors call this condition – hemineglect. The patient may have difficulty perceiving the objects around them as a whole. They may only eat half (left or right) of the contents of their plate. This is because they cannot see that the other half has food on it as well.
All About Recovering After a Stroke
A stroke occurs when tension interferes with blood flow to the brain, causing brain cells to die. Recovering after a stroke can be a challenging and lengthy process. But with proper care and rehabilitation, many people can improve the quality of life after a stroke. The options may vary due to the severe of your consequences after a stroke. If you have strong disorders, you may use passive exercises. For example, you can bring your affected arm into motion. Do it along with your shoulder with your other healthy arm. You are not “doing it yourself,” but the movement does help you achieve neuroplasticity. Electrical stimulation can also be a good solution for such people. But if you have mild or middle implications, it will be even easier to recover. You may try:
- physical exercise;
- mental practice;
- mirror therapy.
Below read some important things to know about recovering after a stroke.
Physical therapy is a key component of movement recovery after a massive stroke. Your therapist shows you therapeutic exercises to help your brain improve muscle control. But remember to perform them carefully.
Other types of exercises are good if you are struggling with paralysis. Usually, it occurs after a massive stroke. So, physical therapy exercises may still not be available. Fortunately, you can start with passive exercises after a stroke.
Passive exercises include movement exercises for parts of the body without effort.
Survivors who have symptoms after a stroke as paralysis can also improve their condition. They may use electrical stimulation. Electrical currents applied to the affected muscles stimulate the brain. This speeds up the process of “re-setting”. Electrical stimulation combined with physical therapy exercises will give an even greater effect.
You may use exercises after a stroke. The principle is the following: the healthy side helps the affected side. A great example is cycling. The benefits of rehabilitation increase if one arm or leg can help the weakened or paralyzed arm or leg.
Movement therapy to overcome limitations after a stroke
Movement therapy can help with hand paralysis for recovering after a stroke. It involves intentionally restricting movement in the healthy arm. This type of rehabilitation therapy is difficult. It may make the patient nervous, but some research has proven it to be clinically effective.
Another great way to induce neuroplasticity is to visualize moving limbs. In stroke rehabilitation, this is called mental practice or motor visualization. This form of therapy after stroke also has been clinically proven to help improve motor skills.
Mirror therapy can help with long-term effects of a stroke. We stimulate neuroplasticity by using a mirror to “trick.” It works as follows: the brain mistakes the movement of the healthy arm for that of the affected arm.
Traditionally, people have been using antidepressants to treat depression after a stroke. But we now know that they also provide other benefits. Studies have shown that SSRIs can improve motor skills in patients after a stroke.
Survivors of a massive stroke and those who struggle can use injections. This medication helps to reduce spasticity temporarily and other symptoms after a stroke. Patients can achieve better mobility through rehabilitation exercises. However, the results bring only temporary relief. This will help overcome the underlying cause of the spasticity. Also, it leads to long-term results.
If you’re struggling with sensory changes after a massive stroke, such as numbness or tingling, exercise can help you. They will rebuild the brain and sensory data, which can help resolve sensory problems like numbness.
Motivation is very important in recovering after a stroke. The professional approach at Lone Star Neurology can help you do just that. Our neurologists have many tools to diagnose and treat the effects of stroke. That is why you do not hesitate to contact us for highly qualified help.
How long do stroke side effects last?
As a rule, it takes from 6 months to several years. The duration of stroke side effects varies depending on the severity of the stroke. The individual’s overall health also has an influence. Some effects may be permanent. But others may improve over time with rehabilitation and medical treatment.
What should you not do after a stroke?
After a stroke, it is important to avoid smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and not skipping medications prescribed by healthcare providers.
Additionally, it is recommended to avoid overexertion or strenuous physical activity without first consulting with a healthcare provider.
What to watch out for after having a stroke?
After having a stroke, it is important to watch out for any signs of a recurrent stroke, such as sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, loss of balance or coordination, severe headache, or changes in vision. It is also important to monitor for any complications such as infections or blood clots.
How long does rehabilitation last?
It should last as long as it has an effect. The early recovery period up to six months is the most “responsive”, after six months to two years is the late recovery period. It is believed that two years after a stroke there are things that will not change – the so-called residual effects.