Stroke-induced mental impairments

A stroke, or brain attack, occurs when an artery carrying blood to part of the brain breaks or becomes clogged by a blood clot. When this happens, the part of the brain that was fed by the artery can die. This causes the part of the body that is controlled by the affected area of the brain to stop functioning.
The effects of a stroke may be lifelong, because dead brain cells are not replaced. A brain injury from a stroke can cause paralysis, or weakness, on one side of the face or body. A stroke can affect the senses, motor activity, and speech. What is affected depends on what part of the brain is damaged. It can alter behaviour, thoughts and memory, and the ability to speak and understand speech. Treatment may include surgery, drugs, hospital care, and rehabilitation.

The mental problems caused by a stroke can be very serious. Stroke survivors may cry easily or laugh uncontrollably. Depression is common. A loss of feeling or visual scope results in a loss of awareness. They may neglect part of their body because they can no longer see it or sense that it is there. A stroke can alter the ability to think clearly. Stroke survivors may get confused, have trouble reading, or dress only one side of their body. Familiar tasks or objects from the past may not be familiar anymore.

Stroke survivors may have trouble understanding what others say, even though hearing is not usually affected by stroke. When a stroke weakens the part of the brain that deals with speech, patients may not be able to say or write what they are thinking.

Some of the problems caused by a stroke may be due to swelling of brain cells. As the brain comes back to normal after the stroke, these cells can recover. When the cells recover, they begin to work again and the person’s brain function improves. Other times the damage is permanent. Persons who have had a stroke need support as they recover. It’s important for the stroke survivor’s family to understand that many mental problems, even personality changes, may be due to the stroke.

The success of rehabilitation depends on the extent that the brain is affected, the survivor’s attitude, the rehab team’s skill, and the help of family and friends. People with the least impairment will likely benefit the most. The goal is to reduce dependence and improve physical ability.

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