Some people experience numerous complications following a stroke, while others experience few. The time between when the stroke occurs and when emergency treatment is given greatly impacts the amount of damage done, as well as the number of complications that follow.
Complications following a stroke depend not only on treatment, but also where in the brain the stroke occurred. A stroke can damage the brain's ability to communicate with the rest of the body. Because a stroke will typically damage only certain areas of the brain, resulting complications tend to be clustered—whatever part of the body or body function that the damaged part of the brain controls will be affected. This could mean loss of muscle control of one side of the body, a loss of the muscles that control speech, or other muscle groupings. A stroke may also affect the area of the brain that controls a particular cognitive skill, such as memory or mood stability.
Here are some possible complications following a stroke:
Loss of Muscle Control/Paralysis
During a stroke, parts of the brain lose significant or all blood flow, depriving those sections of oxygen, and sometimes causing long-lasting or even permanent damage. Because specific areas of the brain control certain muscles in the body, muscle damage in a stroke is often clustered in specific muscle groups. For example, it is common among stroke victim to lose muscle control or become paralyzed on only one side of the body, while the other stays 100 percent functional. The face is a common area affected by stroke—it is fairly common that a stroke victim becomes paralyzed on one side of his or her face.
Stroke often affects the areas of the brain responsible for controlling the muscles in your face, including those muscles used for speaking. It is also possible for a stroke to affect areas of the brain that control memory function, leading to stroke victims having trouble finding the right words for how they are feeling, a condition called aphasia. In many cases, a speech therapist can help with these problems.
If the stroke impacted areas of the brain that control the muscles in your neck, you may have trouble swallowing afterward. This could also include accidentally breathing food into your airway, a condition known as aspiration.
As a stroke affects the brain, it's common that people have problems with memory afterwards. This could include memory loss, difficulty remembering recent events, or even difficulty understanding concepts they were familiar with before the stroke.
Numbness typically occurs on one side of the body, opposite the side of the brain affected by the stroke.
Pain can also accompany a stroke. Numbness and pain can also alternate in the same area as the brain is having difficulty communicating with nerves in a certain area.
Loss of Independence
Physical impairments may require someone with a stroke to need physical assistance in daily tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and other chores. They also may require assistant devices, such as a cane or wheelchair.
Personality and Mood Changes
Because a stroke can damage parts of the brain that affect mood control and personality, stroke survivors will often appear slightly different, temperamentally, than before their stroke. A typically patient person may seem to have a shorter temper, or a normally thoughtful person may become forgetful or withdrawn. It is important to remain patient and calm with someone following a stroke.
Continuing on after experiencing a stroke—particularly one with severe physical and cognitive consequences—can be extremely difficult. A stroke victim may not be able to do many of the things they are used to doing, including going to work at their old job. Serious medical traumas like stroke can also put a huge strain on relationships, affecting the stroke victim and his or her family, friends, and loved ones. As a result, it is fairly common for someone who suffered a stroke to have a worsened mood, and, in some cases, to become afflicted with clinical depression. Depression is a serious medical condition and should be treated as such. Learn more by visiting the Depression Learning Center.
Shortened Life Span
Statistics show a person who suffered one or more strokes during his or her life runs a significantly higher chance of death when compared with the rest of the population. Stroke typically affects adults over the age of 65. Those who experience their stroke before that age have a better chance of survival.