The Totally Terrifying Things That Can Happen To Your Body After Having a Stroke

Heart disease might be the No. 1 killer in the U.S. — but strokes aren’t far behind. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 140,000 Americans die from stroke each year, meaning one out of every 20 deaths in the country is from this disease. And even if you live through the initial brain attack, that doesn’t mean you’ll fully recover with no lasting damage.

Here’s what can happen to your body and brain after you’ve had a stroke, including the most uncomfortable lasting effect that can impact your life daily (No. 9).

1. Blood can build up in your brain

Nicole Briggs looks at a real human brain being displayed as part of new exhibition

The Real Brain Exhibit at Bristol Science Center | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Ischemic strokes are the most common type, and they occur when an artery responsible for bringing blood to the brain gets clogged, WebMD reminds us. But there’s another type — hemorrhagic — that’s less common but more deadly. With a hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel near the brain bursts. And this can cause blood to build up in the brain due to the skull’s hardness.

Blood build-up can cause a wealth of issues, like putting excess pressure on the brain and blocking nerve cells. This can cause severe damage or even death.

Next: The blood vessels themselves can also go through trauma. 

2. Blood vessels in your brain can narrow days after the initial stroke

Brain lobes in different colors

Brain lobes in different colors |

After a blood vessel bursts in a hemorrhagic stroke, the leaking blood sometimes bleeds into the space between the brain and surrounding tissue. When this happens, it can give you vasospasms, WebMD notes. These occur when the blood vessels suddenly narrow days after the initial stroke takes place.

This can inhibit blood from flowing freely, of course, resulting in yet another stroke after the first one hits.

Next: There’s another area of your body that’s going to feel a lot of pressure.

3. Fluid can put excess pressure on your spine

Man holding his lower back with his spine illuminated in red

Man holding his lower back with his spine illuminated in red | Staras/Getty Images

Pressure on the brain is something to be concerned about — but so is excess pressure on the spine. WebMD notes fluid buildup around the spine can also happen in the wake of a stroke. And Healthline reports this can damage the spinal cord, which can hurt your nerves and impact your ability to move your limbs. Along the same lines, putting excess pressure on the spine can harm your organs or cause paralysis.

Next: Your motor skills will also be impacted.  

4. You may develop problems picking things up

Smiling elderly woman combing her hair

Smiling elderly woman combing her hair | MilicaStankovic/Getty Images

You may expect your body to feel different after a stroke, but even the simple task of picking objects up and putting them down can become a challenge.

WebMD notes depending on where your stroke was, different parts of your body are likely to be affected. Healthfully notes the right side of your brain is more responsible for understanding spatial relationships. This is why if the stroke was on your right side, you’re more likely to struggle with picking things up or judging how far away an object is from you.

Next: You probably can’t imagine life without this ability. 

5. You may have trouble reading facial expressions

Elderly woman looking out the window

Elderly woman looking out the window | Dmitry Berkut/iStock/Getty Images

Communication problems are well-documented from those who’ve had a stroke before. And while you may not notice any lasting issues with your own ability to communicate, you may discover difficulties in reading the emotions of others.

The National Stroke Association notes receptive aphasia occurs when you have trouble understanding what others are saying or conveying via their expressions. You may also have trouble following long conversations or understanding the text of a news story you’re reading when you have this condition.

Next: Entire parts of your body may be totally immobile following a stroke. 

6. One side of your body might be paralyzed

Nurse standing with elderly patient

Nurse standing with elderly patient | Rawpixel/iStock/Getty Images

Paralysis is extremely common following a stroke, though the degree you’re affected differs greatly. The National Stroke Association says around nine out of 10 stroke survivors deal with paralysis. And in some cases, entire sides of your body can be immobile.

Typically, paralysis happens on the side opposite the area of the brain damaged by the stroke. Some even experience locked-in syndrome, which occurs when the survivor can only move their eyes. Other get lucky, however, and only experience some muscle weakness that can be improved with physical therapy.

Next: Talking might be more difficult following a stroke. 

7. Your speech could be greatly impacted

Young social work assistant takes care of a senior woman between 70 and 80 years old.

Senior woman being helped by a social worker | TolikoffPhotography/iStock/Getty Images

While receptive aphasia impacts your ability to understand others, the National Stroke Association explains expressive aphasia affects how you communicate with others post-stroke. Some with this type of aphasia can’t speak at all following a stroke. Others can speak single words or shortened sentences and often write the same way they speak.

When expressive aphasia is less severe, you may just end up repeating the same word a few times or forget the word you were looking for mid-sentence.

Next: Speaking of forgetting the word you’re looking for …

8. Memory issues are likely

Elderly man thinking

Elderly man thinking | SIphotography/iStock/Getty Images

The National Stroke Association reminds us that we all experience some level of memory loss at some point or another. And according to their data, at least a third of stroke survivors deal with memory problems after the attack.

Some lose their ability to recall information surrounding names or stories they know, while others can’t remember shapes, faces, or skills they once knew. Others even develop vascular dementia, which is common post-stroke and involves impairment of the ability to reason, plan, or judge.

Next: This physical change is seriously uncomfortable.

9. You may have difficulty swallowing

Senior man sitting alone

Senior man sitting alone | DGLimages/iStock/Getty Images

Swallowing is something you’re doing all day, every day — so suddenly being unable to do so post-stroke is a scary thought. The National Stroke Association explains dysphagia, or the medical term for having paralyzed throat muscles that make it difficult to swallow, is something many stroke survivors have to deal with.

As you can imagine, it makes eating, drinking, or taking medications difficult — but it can also impact your ability to breathe. The good news is this uncomfortable post-stroke condition usually lessens in severity over time.

Next: You may feel shy about this issue, but it’s more common than you think. 

10. You may develop urinary or bowel incontinence

Patient lying on bed while doctor helps him

Patient lying on bed while doctor helps him | Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images

The changes to your brain and your body can be severe post-stroke, and in many instances, your bowels and bladder won’t go unaffected, either. The Stroke Foundation notes incontinence can occur from changes to your thinking or memory, body, or diet and medications.

The good news is urinary or bowel incontinence can be managed or cured. Health professionals can offer testing that will give a better idea of what’s causing the discomfort in the first place and can develop a treatment plan from there.

Next: You can develop another life-threatening condition after a stroke. 

11. Developing seizures post-stroke is more common than you think

The hands of a doctor holding the hands of a senior woman

The hands of a doctor holding the hands of a senior woman | Zhenikeyev/iStock/Getty Images

Due to the nervous system damage sustained from a stroke, many develop seizures. Healthline explains this largely depends on where the stroke took place and how severe it was, but one study showed one out of every 10 stroke survivors have seizures post-stroke. And the National Stroke Association mentions strokes are the most common cause of seizures in the elderly.

Seizures, essentially, are a sign of injury to the brain. They happen most often in those who have had a hemorrhagic stroke or one that involved the cerebral cortex.

Next: You may have good vision now, but that can change after a stroke.

12. You may have vision problems

A young woman showing a mature woman with eyeglasses how to use the computer

A young woman showing a mature woman with eyeglasses how to use the computer | YakobchukOlena/iStock/Getty Images

The Stroke Foundation notes a startling number of survivors (one-third) experience some level of vision loss post-stroke. If the stroke affected the right side of your brain, it’s common for the left side vision of both of your eyes to become impaired as a result, since the nerves of each eye travel together. If the stroke occurred on the left side, then the right side vision will likely be affected.

In rare cases, both sides of the brain are damaged by the stroke, and this can lead to blindness.

Next: Your body thermometer might have a different reading after a stroke.

13. Your body might not be able to regulate its temperature as well

British doctor taking senior man's blood pressure

British doctor taking senior man’s blood pressure | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

If a stroke affects the thalamus in the brain, it can cause a range of long-lasting side effects. Stroke Connection explains the thalamus is responsible for managing your sensitivity to certain temperatures, and it’s also involved in how you feel pain, learn, and have emotional experiences. So damage here can result in abnormal temperature fluctuations within the body.

The good news is doctors believe the thalamus can recover with time.

Next: Strokes can make you incredibly tired. 

14. You’ll be easily fatigued

Senior couple sleeping

Senior couple sleeping | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

Fatigue might be one of the most common issues you’ll experience after a stroke. The Stroke Foundation notes roughly half of all stroke survivors deal with fatigue, which doesn’t improve with rest. Usually, it starts within the first few weeks after the stroke — but some feel the more extreme effects of fatigue months after the fact. This extreme tiredness typically does taper off as time goes by, however, so at least that’s some good news.

Next: Your sex life might be greatly affected, too. 

15. Engaging in sexual activity may be difficult

Senior couple on a cruise vacation

Senior couple on a cruise vacation | Yobro10/iStock/Getty Images

Here’s something you may not have considered. While there’s no guarantee your sex life would be affected by a stroke, it certainly could be. Healthline explains muscle weakness can make sex difficult. And new medications or a decreased ability to communicate may also affect how you feel about engaging in sexual activity.

If you have a stroke, make sure to communicate your needs and feelings with your partner. This can help reduce the stress of the situation greatly.

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