What are Unique Challenges Facing Stroke Patients?

Margo Upson
Margo Upson
The human brain, including blood vessels that can be involved in a stroke.
The human brain, including blood vessels that can be involved in a stroke.

When blood is unable to reach the brain for any reason, it is called a stroke. The lack of blood causes the brain to shut down. If the brain goes without blood for even a short amount of time, cells in the brain may be damaged, or even destroyed. This damage can cause many different challenges for stroke patients.

There are two types of strokes. The first type is caused by a blockage in the vein or capillaries near the brain, caused by an air bubble, clotted blood, or fat globule. Blood cannot get around the clot, and is unable to reach the brain. In the second type, called a bleed, happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing hemorrhaging. Because the blood isn't traveling all the way through the brain, damage occurs.

A diagram of an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke.
A diagram of an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke.

Muscle weakness, or even paralysis, is one of the most common difficulties stroke patients face. It often affects just one side of the body, depending on where in the brain the stroke occurred. Arm and leg weakness can be made worse by stiffness in the joints. This muscle weakness can also affect a person's ability to swallow, which can be dangerous. Brain damage caused by a stroke may also cause balancing difficulty, either due to muscle weakness or the brain damage itself.

Muscle weakness is one of the most common challenges that stroke patients face.
Muscle weakness is one of the most common challenges that stroke patients face.

Another challenge for stroke patients is confusion or mental impairment. They may have a difficult time speaking or comprehending what others are saying to them. Stroke patients may also have difficulty with recalling words and naming objects that are familiar to them. It may take them a long time to find the words they want to use. This is called dysphasia, which is also sometimes called aphasia. This can cause problems not only with listening and speaking, but also with reading and writing.

Confusion can occur in stroke patients.
Confusion can occur in stroke patients.

Stroke victims may also have vision problems. Their eyesight might be worse than it previously was, or they may have double vision or a loss of peripheral vision. This may cause problems with depth perception and balance. Other problems that stroke patients face include a loss of bladder and bowel control, mood swings, an increase or decrease in sensitivity, pain, and slower mental processing time.

Recovering from a stroke takes time. While some patients see improvements in their ability to function within a few weeks, some people will have permanent disabilities. The extent of damages depends on what parts of the brain were without blood, and for how long. Physical therapy can help stroke victims to regain use of their arms and legs, while speech therapy can help them to improve their ability to speak clearly and to understand what is being said to them. Although not all stroke patients will regain all of their previous abilities, most will still be able to walk and communicate after extensive therapy and a lot of hard work.

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

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Discussion Comments

anon27827

This article provides some useful information, but some of the information may benefit from clarification. The following two sentences are presented as though there is a direct link between them:

"Another challenge for stroke patients is confusion or mental impairment. They may have a difficult time speaking or comprehending what others are saying to them."

Confusion or "mental impairment" are factors more likely to be attributable to damage to the pre-frontal cortex, whereas "having a difficult time speaking" is normally related to damage to Broca's area and/or the motor strip. Problems purely related to comprehension of language are normally related to damage to Wernicke's area.

Although changes in cognition (e.g. problem solving / insight / attention) may co-occur with changes in speech / language ability, they are governed by different areas of the brain.

One of the challenges suffered by stroke survivors is being perceived as having reduced intellect or capacity, when often it is purely their ability to *express* their preserved intellect and capacity which has been affected by the stroke.

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    • The human brain, including blood vessels that can be involved in a stroke.
      The human brain, including blood vessels that can be involved in a stroke.
    • A diagram of an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke.
      A diagram of an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke.
    • Muscle weakness is one of the most common challenges that stroke patients face.
      Muscle weakness is one of the most common challenges that stroke patients face.
    • Confusion can occur in stroke patients.
      Confusion can occur in stroke patients.