A stroke can cause physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. The specific symptoms can depend on the location of the stroke, how much damage it causes to surrounding brain tissue, and how soon treatment begins.
A stroke is like your brain’s version of a heart attack. It happens when a clot blocks or decreases blood flow to part of your brain. It can also happen when a vessel ruptures and leaks blood onto brain tissue. Either way, nearby brain cells can’t get the oxygen they need, which can cause them to die.
All strokes are life threatening medical emergencies, but there’s a lot of variation in how you might experience a stroke. Symptoms can depend on the location of the stroke and the extent of damage to surrounding brain tissue.
This article looks at the physical, mental, and emotional effects of a stroke and why immediate medical intervention matters.
Physical symptoms of a stroke may include:
- weakness, numbness, or paralysis on one side of your body
- problems with balance and coordination
- vision problems or vision loss
- sudden headache
- trouble swallowing
Mental symptoms may include:
- trouble speaking, reading, writing, or understanding others
- memory and concentration issues
- problems with executive functions such as planning, problem-solving, and reasoning
- difficulty performing skilled physical activities such as dressing yourself
- impaired spatial awareness, such as difficulty understanding how to use objects or recognizing your own body
Stroke can also lead to changes in behavior and emotional symptoms such as:
- feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and anger
- social withdrawal
- low mood or mood changes
How location affects symptoms
- paralysis on the left side of your body
- aimless, confused movements
- problems with spatial orientation
And a stroke on the left side of your brain may be more likely to cause:
- paralysis on the right side of your body
- speech and language problems
- slow, cautious behaviors
The exact location of the stroke can also cause specific types of symptoms.
Your brain stem regulates consciousness, blood pressure, and breathing. A brain stem stroke can affect all these systems, and symptoms can occur on both sides of your body.
A severe brain stem stroke can lead to locked-in syndrome, a condition in which you’re conscious but cannot move or speak.
- nausea and vomiting
- lack of coordination
- abnormal reflexes
- uncontrollable eye movements
- difficulty speaking or slurred speech
Stroke recovery is different for each person. It has a lot to do with the severity of the injury to your brain and how quickly treatment starts. Some people recover quickly, while others may need long-term rehabilitation.
Stroke is a
People often experience some spontaneous but incomplete recovery.
Some symptoms may not appear until later
Though many stroke symptoms are obvious and immediate, some may not develop for
For example, many people have sleep problems and fatigue in the first few weeks after a stroke. And about
The role of rehabilitation
Within hours of a stroke, your brain starts working on forming new synapses (connections). That’s why rehabilitation usually starts within a day or two of a stroke.
Some researchers have found that, with the right interventions, people can continue to improve well beyond 6 months. Depending on your symptoms, these interventions may include:
- F = Face: Ask the person to smile — does one side droop?
- A = Arm: Ask the person to raise both arms — does one arm drift downward?
- S = Speech: Is the person’s speech slurred?
- T = Time: If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” it’s time to call 911.
Other stroke symptoms may include:
- confusion or disorientation
- vision changes or sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes
- dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
- severe headache
When you call 911, medical staff can start treatment on the way to the emergency room and alert the hospital that you’re on the way. Quick treatment can help restore blood circulation so fewer brain cells are damaged.
Treatment is most effective when started
A stroke has many potential symptoms, depending on where in your brain it occurs, how much damage it causes, and how soon treatment begins. Recovery is different for each person and may take anywhere from a few weeks to years.
Stroke is a life threatening emergency. Every second counts. The sooner you can start treatment, the better your chance of a good recovery will be.