The common side effects of a stroke depend greatly on the location of the brain affected by the stroke. Side effects are not always immediately apparent with some manifesting weeks or months after the attack. Most effects are neurologic in nature, with physical and emotional compromises also noted. Emotional effects often spill over to the patient’s family members with concern for their loved one’s health and prognosis for recovery.
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Neurologic Side Effects
Aphasia (impaired speech pattern), dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing), reading difficulties, loss of writing ability and hemiparesis (physical weakness on one side of the body) are the most common neurological side effects when stroke occurs in the middle cerebral artery.
If stroke occurs in the internal carotid artery, the victim may experience constant headaches, physical weakness, paralysis, blurry vision, aphasia, dysphagia and ptosis (facial drooping of mouth or eyelid).
If the anterior cerebral artery is affected by stroke, side effect may be confusion, weakness, numbness on the affected side of the body, paralysis of the leg or foot which may result in dragging the extremity, incontinence and personality changes. A person very commonly develops a “flat affect,” meaning a lack of emotional expression in speech and behavior.
A stroke centered in the vertebral or basilar artery often results in mouth numbness, dizziness, weakness on one side, vision changes, dysphagia, slurred speech, amnesia and poor muscle coordination.
The posterior cerebral artery stroke results in decreased visual fields, impaired taste, hearing and smell, coma and even blindness.
Hidden Side Effects
Not all side effects of stroke are as obvious as the neurologic effects. The risk of pneumonia increases dramatically in patients that have experienced stroke in response to the neurological complications. Unstable blood pressure is a side effect that increases the need for frequent monitoring and frequent medication adjustments. The body’s fluid balance is frequently in flux as a result of electrolyte disturbances thus increasing the risk of peripheral edema.
Emotional Side Effects
A patient may suffer depression after a stroke due to health compromises and the awareness that they are more likely to suffer a second stroke. According to New York Presbyterian Hospital, 43 percent of patients who have suffered a stroke will suffer a second and more debilitating stroke. A patient may begin to lose interest in activities previously enjoyed feeling they are simply a ticking timebomb waiting to go off. Their work may suffer due to challenges with concentration and feelings of hopelessness.
The patient’s family may also experience emotional side effects. Increased worry over their loved one’s well-being and recovery and financial concerns may loom if the patient can no longer work or loses a job. Family and friends may be faced with a patient’s personality changes as well. The patient may be more forgetful, quick to anger or express no emotional at all.
Patients and family should discuss the emotional effects of a stroke with their healthcare provider in order to receive the support they need.