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Effects of a stroke

Each stroke is different. How well you recover from a stroke depends upon many factors including how much your brain was damaged and in what areas, and your health before the stroke. The work you do with your stroke rehabilitation team and the support from family and friends are also important to your recovery.

A stroke damages the brain and causes a sudden loss of brain function. Because your brain controls everything you say, do and think, a stroke can have a wide variety of effects.

Strokes in the cerebrum

The cerebrum is responsible for controlling movement and sensation, speech, thinking, reasoning, memory, sexual function, and regulation of emotions. It is divided into the right and left sides or hemispheres.

Effects of left hemisphere strokes

  • Weakness or paralysis on the right side of your body.
  • Trouble reading, talking, thinking or doing math.
  • Your behaviour may become slower and more cautious than usual.
  • Trouble learning or remembering new information.
  • You may need frequent instructions and feedback to finish tasks.

Effects of right hemisphere strokes

  • Weakness or paralysis on the left side of your body.
  • Vision problems.
  • Problems distinguishing distance, depth, between up and down, or between front and back. This can make it hard to pick up objects, button a shirt, or tie your shoes.
  • Problems understanding maps.
  • Problems with short-term memory. You may be able to remember something that happened several years ago, but not something you did a few minutes ago.
  • Forgetting or ignoring objects or people on your left side (this is called neglect). You may even ignore your own left arm or leg.
  • Judgement difficulties, such as acting impulsively or not realizing your own limitations.

Strokes in the cerebellum

Although strokes in the cerebellum is a less common stroke, the effects can be severe, including:

  • Inability to walk and problems with coordination and balance (called ataxia).
  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Brain stem strokes

This is an uncommon type of stroke. Strokes in the brain stem are often fatal, but when they are not, they affect many of these functions. The brain stem is the area at the very base of the brain, right above the spinal cord. If you have a stroke in the brain stem, you can have problems with:

  • Breathing and heart function.
  • Body temperature control.
  • Balance and coordination.
  • Weakness or paralysis of your arms and legs on both sides of the body.
  • Chewing, swallowing and speaking.
  • Vision.

Will a stroke change my life?

Any major illness will change your life. Almost all stroke survivors recover to some extent. Most stroke survivors go on to lead full, meaningful lives. Your stroke rehabilitation team, family, friends and relatives can help you make the best possible recovery. Read our stroke survivor stories.

Last reviewed: May 2013
Last modified: July 2014