Stroke can affect several areas of your body, depending on which part of the brain it affects. Some effects can last long after the event.

A stroke happens when blood carrying oxygen can’t get to part of the brain. Brain cells get damaged and can die if left without oxygen, even for a few minutes. A stroke requires immediate medical care, is potentially deadly, and can affect several parts of the body well after the event is over.

The best chance of reducing damage caused by a stroke is to get medical treatment as fast as possible. Long-term symptoms and recovery time will depend on what areas of the brain are affected.

Stroke can affect the part of your brain responsible for controlling your breathing. It can also weaken the muscles that help you breathe.

While these effects are typically short-term, some people experience long-term breathing issues, especially during sleep. As many as 7 in 10 people who have had a stroke may have sleep apnea.

A stroke in the brain stem — where vital functions like breathing, heartbeat, and body temperature are controlled — can also cause breathing problems. This type of stroke is more likely to result in coma or death.

A stroke can also affect your respiratory system indirectly. Damage to the area of your brain that controls eating and swallowing can cause you to have trouble with these functions. This is called dysphagia. It’s a common symptom following a stroke but often improves with time.

If the muscles in your throat, tongue, or mouth can’t direct food down the esophagus, food and liquid can get into the airway and settle in your lungs. This can cause serious complications, like infection and pneumonia.

The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and a network of nerves throughout the body. This system sends signals back and forth from the body to the brain. When the brain is damaged, it doesn’t receive these messages correctly.

There is some overlap between the areas of the brain and their function. Damage to different parts of the brain may cause challenges in the following areas:

facial and object recognition
personality traits
thinking patterns
language comprehension
analytical thinking

Other effects of stroke on the nervous system may include:

  • Numbness: A common stroke symptom is numbness and tingling, usually on one side of the body.
  • Sensations: You may feel pain more frequently or when doing activities that weren’t previously painful. Your brain may not understand sensations like warmth or cold like it used to.
  • Vision: Issues can include loss of vision, losing one side or parts of the field of vision, and problems moving your eyes. There may also be processing issues, meaning your brain isn’t getting the correct information from the eyes.
  • Foot drop: This common type of weakness or paralysis makes it difficult to lift the front part of your foot. Foot drop can cause you to drag your toes along the ground while walking, or bend at the knee to lift the foot higher to keep it from dragging. This usually resolves with rehabilitation, and wearing a brace may help.

Following a stroke, you’re also at a higher risk of having a seizure. This often depends on the size, location, and severity of the stroke. As many as 1 in 5 people may experience seizures after a stroke, especially after a hemorrhagic stroke.

Existing issues within the circulatory system are usually the cause of a stroke. If you’ve had a stroke, you’re at a higher risk of having another event, like a heart attack or second stroke.

To prevent another stroke, a doctor will recommend lifestyle changes, like eating healthy and being more physically active. They may also prescribe medications.

A doctor will also recommend better management of any ongoing health problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. If you smoke, they’ll encourage you to quit.

Depending on which area of the brain is damaged, a stroke can affect various muscle groups. These changes can range from major to minor and usually require rehabilitation to improve.

A stroke typically affects one side of the brain. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. If there’s a lot of damage to the left side of the brain, you may experience paralysis on the right side of the body.

When messages can’t travel properly from your brain to your muscles, paralysis and muscle weakness can result. Weak muscles have trouble supporting the body, which tends to add to movement and balance problems.

Feeling more tired than usual is a common symptom after a stroke. It’s called post-stroke fatigue. You may need to take more breaks between activities and rehabilitation.

During early stroke recovery, you’re typically not as active as usual. You may also be taking different medications. Constipation is a common side effect of some pain medications, not drinking enough liquids, or not being as physically active.

It’s also possible for the stroke to affect the part of your brain that controls your bowels. This can cause incontinence, meaning the loss of control over bowel function. It’s more common in the early stages of recovery and often improves over time.

Damage from a stroke can cause a breakdown in communication between the brain and the muscles that control your bladder. When this happens, you may need to go to the bathroom more often, or you may urinate in your sleep or while coughing or laughing. Like bowel incontinence, this is usually an early symptom that improves with time.

More than half of people experience some sexual decline after a stroke. Direct effects include:

The physical and psychological effects of stroke may also change how you experience sex and how you feel about your body.

For example, paralysis may affect your sex life. It’s still possible to engage in sexual activity, but you and your partner will likely need to make adjustments.

Stroke symptoms and rehabilitation can vary based on the type, location, and severity of the stroke. A doctor can help you understand how the specifics of a stroke you had may affect you and what treatments or life adjustments may help you manage those effects.