The Effects of a Stroke

After a stroke, once the initial urgency ​is over and your condition or the condition of your loved one, becomes more stable, there are a variety of potential outcomes.

The Difference Between Immediate Effects and Long Term Effects

The immediate phase of a stroke is usually much more severe than the long-term after effect. But, short-term symptoms often correlate with the long-term outcome. For example, if stroke symptoms at the initial onset include hand numbness and inability to move the arm, the disability during and after recovery may include intermittent numbness, occasional tingling and moderate weakness of the fingers.

If the initial symptoms include intermittent visual changes and visual field loss, the long-term effects might include a less severe visual deficit. Sudden stroke symptoms of leg weakness and tingling may eventually stabilize as leg pain or loss of sensation on part of the affected leg.

But sometimes, the long-term effects of a stroke seem worse after the first few weeks, or after the stroke survivor goes home. This is the explanation for a stroke that 'seems' to worsen over the first few weeks. First of all, the urgent stage of a stroke requires bed rest, close supportive care and a great deal of assistance. During the hospital stay, the hospital environment is structured to incorporate medication schedules, meal times, and a routine for personal hygiene. Patients who are in the hospital for stroke treatment generally do not attempt to read, solve complex problems, make decisions or carry objects.

During the rehabilitation phase and after the return to the home setting, complex integrative skills are finally put to the test in a setting where problems might become apparent. Trying to juggle many tasks might reveal forgetfulness. The inability to independently manage some life skills may not be recognized as a problem until after regular activities are re-started.

A Wide Range of Effects

After a stroke, some of the consequences include vision loss of one eye, a section of vision loss in one eye or a section of vision loss in both eyes. Some visual syndromes may occur. Trouble with depth perception can occur. Some stroke survivors have a problem called neglect, which manifests as ignoring objects, people or sounds on one side or in a visual field. Weakness of the arms or legs, or just a portion of the arms or legs, hands or feet may occur. Usually, weakness is prominent on one side of the body, but some strokes can cause weakness on both sides. Trouble walking, lifting or carrying objects may result. Sensation can be impaired, manifesting as a decrease in sensation, a loss of sensation, hypersensitivity or pain in response to touch or temperature changes. Pain at rest may be a problem for some stroke survivors.  Coordination may be affected, causing trouble with motor control even if strength is preserved. Facial movements, including eyelid control, may be impaired.

Weakness of facial muscles can produce a change in appearance. Trouble chewing or swallowing can be a serious problem for stroke survivors. The voice may change due to weakness of the muscles that produce sound. Speech difficulties can result in mumbled speech or may include an inability to find the right words. Understanding spoken or written language may be impaired. Trouble concentrating, memory deficiency, fatigue and mood changes may occur. Headaches can become worse or may begin after a stroke. Impaired judgment and insight may result from a stroke. Some stroke survivors develop seizures due to the damage to a portion of brain tissue.

There are a variety of possible long-term effects after a stroke. They may vary in degree and can improve over time. Once the immediate phase of a stroke is over, stroke symptoms generally do not worsen unless there is another health condition that exaggerates the effects of a stroke. Conditions that can temporarily worsen stroke effects include infection, a systemic illness or medication effects.

Find out more about how to recover after a stroke.


Weiner, William J., Goetz, Christopher G, Neurology for the Non-Neurologist, Fifth Edition, Lippincott Wiliams& Winkins, 2004

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