The Most Important Things You Need To Know About Left-Sided Stroke
Many people think they know what a stroke mean, and what the implications are for those affected. However, we often guilty of actually having quite a restricted idea of the condition. It is easy to see a stroke as that moment where patients suffer a clot or hemorrhage, lose feeling down one side and struggle with their speech.
This can occur, but the event and its subsequent effects are far more complicated than that. In fact, there are two distinct categories of stroke that the public isn’t always aware of. They are left-sided and right-sided strokes.
In this guide, we want to look at what it means to have a left-sided stroke. This means taking a closer look at some of the effects that occur from a clot or other stroke-related event in the left-hand side of the brain. This includes various conditions related to the physiology of the patient and the cognitive effects on the left-hand side of the brain.
There are some conditions that are more prevalent in people with left-sided strokes – such as specific issues with memory, reasoning, and speech. There are also issues that are the same for all stroke patients. We will also look at some of the treatment options open to users with this condition as well as recovery rates.
Important Long-Term Effects of a Left-Sided Stroke
These strokes can be devastating with a severe lack of function in many systems. This includes
- Motor function
- Language skills
- Memory issues
- Emotional distress
It is crucial that those that suffer from a left-sided stroke are aware of the wider implications of the condition. The problem doesn’t stop with a little weakness in one side or slurred speech. Patients find themselves on a long road of recovery that is tailored to the specific issue they develop.
The more that patients know about their condition, the easier it is to help them improve. Education and awareness are also important for the support team around them. Let’s start with the more noticeable effects on the body.
Loss of Motor Function in the Right-Hand Side
One of the more noticeable symptoms of a stroke is a loss of motor function down one side of the body. This can be seen as a general weakness down one side or it could be far more severe, such as paralysis in limbs. The side that experiences this weakness and/or loss of function is indicative of the side of the brain affected by the stroke.
Those that deal with issues on the right side of the body will have suffered a left-sided stroke. Those that experience problems with the left-hand side of the body have experienced a right-sided stroke. That is because the hemispheres of the brain that control motor function are on the opposite side of the body.
Losing a Dominant Hand:
This differentiation between the left and right sides of the body is important for a number of reasons. First of all, medics need to determine whether or not the stroke has affected the more dominant hand or dominant foot. We don’t always think of ourselves as having a dominant foot. But, it is true that one tends to lead and we have a little more control over it.
Our dominant hand is the one we tend to use when it comes to writing, drawing or performing basic tasks. Most people are right-handed. Those that have a left-sided stroke and lose function in their right hand could be at risk of even greater issues within their day-to-day life. They may struggle to grip items, write legibility or push buttons.
Those with a greater loss of function may not be able to use this arm at all. This means that they will need even greater support when it comes to daily activities. A left-handed person with a left-sided stroke may not have so many issues with this motor-function tasks.
Loss of Left-Brain Function:
A left-sided stroke damages functionality in a certain way. It isn’t just language skills that can vary when we compare right-sided strokes with left-sided strokes. There are lots of functions that are made possible by left brain activity. A loss of function or any disruption in this hemisphere could have a significant impact on these abilities.
People that favor their left brain are the ones that are more logical in life. They have an analytical mind that can follow logic and sequencing to make a rational judgment. They are also pretty good at maths. This is all in contrast to the more creative, imaginative people that favor their right brain. So what problems might left-brained people experience if they have a left-sided stroke
Left-Sided Strokes and the Language Center
Many patients dealing with a left-sided stroke may struggle with a condition called Aphasia. This means that that will have problems speaking and understanding language. This isn’t unheard of for those with cognitive dysfunction.
Many with neurological issues need a little more time to find the right words or may trip up over sentence structure or pronunciation. Verbal apraxia is a common motor speech problem where patients can’t move their mouth to form the right words or sounds.
Some may have problems with word pronunciation where they replace correct sound with an incorrect one. Others can’t say sentences clearly and may repeat phrases.
Stroke Symptoms Experienced in Both Left and Right-Sided Stroke Victims
Disability following a left-sided stroke isn’t limited to this loss of function in the left-hand side of the body. Other issues include:
- Physical limitations
- Issues of neglect
- Mental health issues
- Problems with attention and concentration
There are some conditions and side-effects related to strokes that can occur regardless of whether the condition is a left-sided or right-sided stroke. Many of the physical issues above can occur in all sorts of stroke patients – some experiencing a wide range of them and others becoming more fortunate.
Some of the issues with language and memory can occur on either side too. It is important that physicians and carers understand the significance of a left-sided stroke. But, they also need to help people with some of the other issues such as short-term memory loss, concentration issues, and mental health.
Other physical issues:
There are some other physical issues that relatives and carers need to consider when discussing the impact of a left-sided stroke. It is easy to focus on the function of the weaker side of the body as it is the most noticeable sign.
However, patients can also suffer from other weakness and conditions with their muscles and nerves. This can include dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), incontinence problems and disruptions with nerve signals. There is also the potential for issues with fatigue, body temperature control, and reduced sexual ability.
Neglect is a term that might not be that well-known for those that are new to the problems of strokes and stroke recovery. This phenomenon can occur no matter where the stroke occurs. Patients have a weaker side and a stronger side. The stronger side becomes the one that is functional and that users can rely on more easily. The weakened side is neglected as the failing, broken side of the body. The problem is that this issue of neglect can extend far beyond the issues of favoring one side over the other.
Those that have a left-sided stroke may ignore the right side of their body entirely. They may struggle to acknowledge anything in this area. This means that some may not see items in the peripherals of the right side. They may not turn in that direction, preferring to turn left on the stronger limbs. This strengthens the idea of one side being better than the other. This is a dangerous approach when trying to even out the limbs and focus on rebuilding strength.
Left-Sided Stroke and Mental Health:
It is important to take a moment to mention the psychological side of a stroke. While therapists and doctors may work to improve physical conditions, we also need to be aware of the potential psychological impact of all of this. A stroke can change a person’s life dramatically. Their sudden inability to perform basic tasks or enjoy their everyday life could have a strong negative effect on their mental state.
Depression is common in stroke victims. Many will feel that they have lost so much and may struggle to see the potential for growth. Therapy and self-care are important. Patients need to know that they are understood as a whole and an individual, not as another statistic in a facility.
Then there is the issue of denial. This is something that many stroke patients may experience as they struggle to come to terms with what has happened to them. In some cases, they may deny that they have a stroke. It makes more sense and is easier to process than the reality of the situation.
We can perhaps look at this denial process as something akin to the grieving process. Denial is an important early stage of grief after all. A loss of health, of a functioning limb or a secondary issue – like a loss of income – could trigger these feelings of bereavement. This is just another reason why it is so important to take the time to address mental health care when dealing with stroke victims.
On a similar note, there will be some people that face serious issues of anxiety and stress when dealing with the aftermath of a stroke. This could be anxiety over how they will continue with the same quality of life, or maybe stress over new physical or financial burdens.
Treatment and Recovery for Those With Left-Sided Strokes
Recovery from these different issues is not possible without a strong personalized plan of action. This approach needs to cover a range of options so that patients work on individual problems and get the results that they desire. This can include the following:
- Rehabilitation centers
- Speech therapy
- Alternative medicine
There are many different forms of rehab services that stroke patients can benefit from in the early stages of the illness. Inpatient rehabilitation units are a specialized area of a hospital or clinic where patients can stay for a few weeks. This provides an intensive rehabilitation program.
The outpatient unit experience is much the same, only patients don’t have to stay overnight if they don’t need to. Some will prefer to go to a skilled nursing facility away from a hospital that can specialize in rehabilitation or other treatments. Then there are the home-based programs for those that don’t want to or can’t leave their own home.
Physiotherapists can help stroke patients redevelop the strength in their limbs, the motion in their hands and their general sense of co-ordination. Regular exercisers allow users to improve their motor skills, range of motion and mobility as they work to improve their physical abilities.
Over time, patients can build function on the weakened right-hand side of the body, improve hand-eye coordination issues and stop themselves from favoring their left-side too much. There is also a chance to learn about constraint therapies and mobility aids.
Any stroke victim dealing with language issues due to a left-sided stroke could benefit from some time with a speech therapist. Also known as speech-language pathologists, these professionals can help stroke victims to improve their speech and communicate more effectively. They do so by conducting an exam to determine skills in speaking, writing, listening comprehension and reading comprehension. With time, patients can find that their speech improves enough to communicate more easily with doctors and family members
Psychotherapy is a tool that isn’t always mentioned in guides to the treatment of left-sided strokes and brain injuries. There is a great focus on the physical therapy needs of these sufferers. However, families shouldn’t overlook the potential of a psychologist when dealing with some of the mental health issues. Problems with denial, neglect, and depression can inhibit recovery unless dealt with effectively. They can also inhibit the ability for family members to provide the support that patients need
Again, alternative therapies may not may every list of possible treatment options for victims of left-sided strokes. There is a desire to focus on tried and tested approaches for an efficient treatment plan.
However, we can’t overlook the fact that every stroke patient is an individual. This means that they have individual needs and should follow a personalized path were possible. Some will find that alternative treatments like acupuncture and electro-stimulation can be of help.
Recovery Rates for Left-Sided Stroke Victims
There are clearly lots of different issues that stroke victims have to deal with when they experience a left-sided stroke. The problems with their motor function in their hands and legs is an important place to start – especially if they are right-handed. Language and speech issues also require immediate attention so that patients can relearn skills and improve their condition. Treatment and recovery can take a lot of hard work. But, there are lots of ways that patients can make some small steps in the right direction.
All of these treatment options are important tools that can help people deal with the different conditions and side effects of a stroke. Some patients will benefit from a vast range of specialist health care in different areas. A combination of speech therapy, psychotherapy and physiotherapy could help patients make improvements across the board. Some patients may be luckier, in a sense, and may only require more direct attention in key areas.
Whatever the diagnosis and the side-effect with a left-side stroke, victims need to know about their chance of recovery. It is one thing to treat the symptoms – it is another to completely overcome the stroke and return to life as it was.
So, is this at all possible?
When we take some of the statistics about left-side stroke victims at face value, the outlook can seem a little bleak.
- 40% of patients will show some recovery but will have to deal with severe to moderate disabilities related to their stroke. This means a likelihood of specialist care from there on.
- 25% will see a high level of recovery from the stroke and will be left with only minor impairments. These issues may be greatly improved and patients can still have a good quality of life.
- 10% of patients will go on to make a complete recovery and continue with life as it was.
- 1 in 4 people that have a left-sided stroke may go on to have another in the next 5 years.
There are positive and negative sides to these statistics. The number of people making a full recovery is low, while the chance of a second stroke is high. Yet, there is a combined figure of 75% of patients making some form of improvement.
It is also important to remember that many patients can see rapid improvement in the early days. The brain wants to heal itself and repair the damage. It can do so at a surprising pace, with the right support, for about a month. From there, the rates start to slow down, but greater gains are possible. Patients should be walking again in 6 months. But, there are potential hurdles to this plan.
The Speed and Extent of This Recovery Depend on a Number of Different Variables
One of the most important factors here is access to healthcare and services. Unfortunately, some patients will be better able to access certain treatment options due to their savings or their location. The impact of those therapy sessions – especially physiotherapy – also depends on the start date. The sooner that patients get into a facility and retrain their brain and muscles, the easier it is to see results.
Then there are the social factors and the emotional support that is needed. Patients are more likely to succeed with family members and peers helping them with their therapy. Some may need the encouragement to try exercises at home, or simply a shoulder to lean on when it all seems a bit too tough.
Finally, there is the attitude of the patient themselves. Those that deal with neglect and depression may not have the outlook to push themselves with difficult sessions. They may avoid exercise and put off therapies. This could be damaging in the long run.
So What Have We Learned About Left-Sided Strokes?
While there are some clear similarities between left-sided strokes and right-sided ones, there are also some important differences to keep in mind. This event within the left-hand side of the brain has the potential to cause some serious physical issues within the right-side of the body. This could be devastating for all those that are right-handed, and those that have a dominant right foot.
Then there are the issues within the left-hand side of the brain and the impact on its functionality. Those that rely heavily on this mathematical, logical side of the brain could find themselves struggling with sequences and reasoning. Many will also develop memory and language issues.
The good news is that there is the potential for a good recovery for all those that experience this form of stroke. A good course of physical therapy sessions can help users strengthen their right limbs and learn to write and walk again. Speech therapists and other specialists are also on hand to provide support wherever it is needed. With the right approach, there is a chance that patients will have a good quality of life, and potentially make a full recovery.
It is important to remember that while many people will struggle to see improvements, a left-sided stroke doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Educate yourself on the different side-effects and implications of damage to this side of the brain. Research the options that are available to you and your family members. Most importantly, stay positive and support your loved one as they go through this journey.