A stroke is a fairly common, serious medical condition that happens when the blood supply to the brain is cut off. It can be life-threatening and requires fast action and immediate medical attention.
According to the Brain Foundation, about 55,000 Australians a year have strokes. While most stroke patients survive, a high percentage (around 50%) end up permanently disabled or not able to do some everyday activities that they could before.
Depending on the severity of the stroke, long term effects come in many forms. For example, some may experience speech issues, trouble remembering things, difficulty with coordination, incontinence, problems swallowing, psychological hardships such as depression and anxiety, and more.
In this article, we will be going into more detail about some after-effects of strokes.
One of the most common effects of a stroke is speech impairment, known as aphasia. If the stroke damaged the left side of the brain, some could be left with trouble communicating as their words would become mixed up, fragmented and difficult to understand.
Stroke patients need to see a speech and language therapist as soon as possible. These professionals have the tools and resources available to help practice their communication and, over time, regain speech control.
Bladder and bowel control
Problems with bladder control and bowel movements are an example of one of a stroke’s ‘silent’ effects. With the accessibility of adult incontinence products, it’s now relatively easy to hide this symptom, but just because others can’t see it, that doesn’t mean that a lack of bladder control is pleasant to live with.
So how does a stroke cause incontinence? As a stroke is essentially brain damage, the part of your brain which controls the bladder and bowel can become damaged. While many patients can recover quickly from this with time alone, others will need to do daily exercises, take medication and use incontinence products to help with their recovery.
Depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety are, unfortunately, two very common side effects for many survivors of strokes and other medical conditions. As simple daily tasks aren’t as easy to achieve after a stroke, someone’s mental health can quickly become negatively affected as they come to terms with their new lifestyle and way of doing things.
Signs to look out for with depression and anxiety are:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Uncontrollable crying
- Withdrawn from social interactions
- Feelings of fear and nervousness
- Uncontrolled feelings of anxiety
Luckily, today, there is a lot of support available for mental health, and the feelings may lessen over time as the effects of a stroke lessen and daily tasks become easier.
Excessive tiredness after a stroke is known as post-stroke fatigue. On average, it lasts up to 6 months, but it can also become chronic and persist in up to 40% of patients. Many survivors report it as one of the worst symptoms as it can affect going back to work, being productive at home and making it very difficult to do any physical activity.
A swallowing disorder developed after a stroke is called dysphagia which is when something you have swallowed enters the lungs or airways. This can cause aspiration that would normally lead to violent coughing, but in some cases, a stroke can reduce feelings, and patients might not know they are aspirating.
After a stroke, doctors and nurses may recommend consuming different foods or even not eating anything until control over swallowing is back to normal. If not well managed, dysphagia can lead to malnutrition and other dietary problems.
About two-thirds of people have visual problems after their stroke. Due to the damage to the brain, the area which controls and receives information from your eyes is impaired. This can lead to visual field loss, eye movement problems, visual processing problems and other sight issues.
Visual problems are a huge issue for those who drive and rely on driving to get to work, go to the shops and do other daily activities. They would need to take public transport or rely on a friend or relative to help them get around.
To sum up
Of all neurological disorders, stroke is the largest single cause of adult disability. While many experiences noticeable after-effects such as speech impairment and lack of coordination, others will be living with less apparent symptoms such as incontinence, depression and fatigue. Additional after-effects include headaches, changes in taste and smell, balance problems, seizures and epilepsy.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a stroke’s after-effects, it is important to reach out and seek help and support.
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