Stroke is a fairly common, serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off. It can be life-threatening and requires prompt action and immediate medical attention.
According to the brain foundation, about 55,000 Australians have a stroke each year. Although most stroke patients survive, a high percentage (about 50%) become permanently disabled or unable to perform some daily activities that they were previously able to do.
Depending on the severity of the stroke, long-term effects come in many forms. For example, some may experience speech difficulties, difficulty remembering things, difficulty with coordination, incontinence, difficulty swallowing, psychological hardships such as depression and anxiety, and more.
In this article, we take a closer look at some of the after-effects of stroke.
One of the most common effects of a stroke is speech impairment, also known as aphasia. If the stroke damaged the left side of the brain, some could have trouble communicating as their words would become confused, fragmented and difficult to understand.
Stroke patients should see a speech therapist as soon as possible. These professionals have the tools and resources at their disposal to practice their communication and, over time, regain speech control.
Bladder and Bowel Control
Problems with bladder and bowel control are an example of one of the ‘silent’ effects of a stroke. With the accessibility of adult incontinence products, it’s now relatively easy to hide this symptom, but just because others can’t see it doesn’t mean a lack of bladder control is a pleasant thing to live with.
So how does a stroke causes incontinence† Because a stroke is essentially brain damage, the part of your brain that controls the bladder and bowels can become damaged. While many patients can recover quickly from this when alone, others will need to do daily exercise, medication and use incontinence products to aid in their recovery.
Depression and Anxiety
Unfortunately, depression and anxiety are two common side effects for many survivors of stroke and other medical conditions. Because simple daily tasks are not so easy to accomplish after a stroke, a person’s mental health can quickly be negatively affected as they come to terms with their new lifestyle and way of doing things.
Signs to watch out for in depression and anxiety include:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- crying uncontrollably
- Withdrawn from social interactions
- Feelings of fear and nervousness
- Uncontrolled feelings of fear
Fortunately, there is a lot of mental health support available today, and the feelings can diminish over time as the effects of a stroke diminish and everyday tasks become easier.
Excessive fatigue after a stroke is known as fatigue after a stroke. 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 returning to work, being productive at home and making it very difficult to do physical activity.
A swallowing disorder that develops after a stroke is called dysphagia. This 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 diminish feelings, and patients may not know they are aspirating.
After a stroke, doctors and nurses may recommend consuming different foods or even eating nothing until swallowing control returns to normal. If not properly managed, dysphagia can lead to malnutrition and other nutritional problems.
About two-thirds of people have visual problems after a stroke. The brain damage has affected the area that controls your eyes and receives information. This can lead to visual field loss, eye movement problems, visual processing problems, and other vision problems.
Visual problems are a major problem for people who drive and depend on driving to get to work, go to the shops and do other daily activities. They should take public transportation or rely on a friend or relative to help them get around.
to sum up
Stroke is the leading cause of disability in adults of all neurological disorders. While many will experience noticeable aftereffects such as speech disorders and lack of coordination, others will live with less obvious symptoms such as incontinence, depression and fatigue. Additional side effects include headaches, changes in taste and smell, balance problems, seizures and epilepsy.
If you or someone you know is struggling with the consequences of a stroke, it is important to reach out and seek help and support.
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