Effects of Stroke

The effects of a Stroke typically depend on the extent of the brain damage and where in the brain the Stroke occurred. The brain is divided into four primary parts: left hemisphere, right hemisphere, cerebellum and brain stem, and each area has a responsibility for a particular function or ability.

Left-Hemisphere Stroke

The left hemisphere of the brain controls the movement of the right side of the body, as well as:

  • Verbal language
  • Numerical skills
  • Written language
  • Reasoning
  • Scientific functions

A Stroke in the left hemisphere of the brain may cause:

  • Paralysis on the right side of the body (right hemiplegia)
  • Aphasia (a term for a wide range of speech and language problems)
  • Memory problems, such as shortened attention spans, difficulty in learning new information
  • Problems with concept and generalization
  • Development of a slow and cautious behavioral style

Right-Hemisphere Stroke

The right hemisphere of the brain controls the movement of the left side of the body, as well as:

  • Perceptual tasks, such as judging distance, size, speed or position, or seeing how parts are connected to wholes

A Stroke in the right hemisphere of the brain may cause:

  • Paralysis on the left side of the body (left hemiplegia)
  • Problems with spatial and perceptual abilities that may cause them to misjudge distances, or be unable to guide their hands to pick up an object, button a shirt or tie their shoes
  • Inability to tell right-side-up from upside down when reading
  • Judgment difficulties that may cause patient to develop an impulsive style unaware of his or her impairments (e.g., trying to drive a car with spatial and perceptual impairments)
  • Left-side “neglect” — “forgetting” or “ignoring” people and objects on the left side
  • Problems with short-term memory

Cerebellar Stroke

The cerebellum controls:

  • Reflexes
  • Balance
  • Coordination

A Stroke that occurs in the cerebellum can cause:

  • Abnormal reflexes of the head and torso
  • Coordination and balance problems
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting

Brain Stem Stroke

The brain stem controls all of the involuntary “life support” functions, as well as other abilities, including:

  • Breathing rate
  • Heartbeat
  • Blood pressure
  • Eye movements
  • Hearing
  • Speech
  • Swallowing

A Stroke that occurs in the brain stem is especially devastating, often causing paralysis on one or both sides of the body.

Transient Ischemic Attacks

These “mini-Strokes” often occur before a major Stroke. Depending on where they occur in the brain, TIAs can have a noticeable, but temporary, effect or not be noticed at all.

There is a lot that is unknown about how the brain compensates for the damage caused by Stroke. Some brain cells may be only temporarily damaged, not killed, and may resume functioning. Sometimes the brain can reorganize its own functioning, and sometimes a region of the brain "takes over" for a region damaged by the Stroke. General recovery guidelines show:

  • 10 percent of Stroke survivors recover almost completely
  • 25 percent recover with minor impairments
  • 40 percent experience moderate to severe impairments requiring special care
  • 10 percent require care in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
  • 15 percent die shortly after the Stroke

If you or a loved one are experiencing Stroke symptoms, call 911 and get to the hospital IMMEDIATELY! Treatments are available that may dramatically reduce a Stroke’s devastating effects—but they must be provided within a few hours of the onset of a Stroke.