Ultimate Guide to Right-Sided Strokes

A stroke can be a debilitating, life-changing condition. We often see stories about stroke patients overcoming their conditions and learning how to walk again. We also see stories about those that struggle with their speech and deal with the effects for many years.

What we don’t see is the complexity of the condition and the way that it changes a patient’s life in multiple ways. For example, some people indirectly affected by stroke may not realize that there are two categories – left-sided and right-sided strokes. The difference doesn’t just refer to the location of the stroke within the brain, but to the different conditions that can develop.

In this guide, we will take a closer look at the different factors to consider when dealing with a right-sided stroke. There are some conditions that are more likely to occur when there is a stroke on this side of the brain. We will look at some of these physiological, neurological and cognitive issues. We also want to discuss some of the treatment methods that patients will experience when dealing with this right-sided stroke.

Recovery can be a long process, so it is important to be aware of all the different tools that are available. Finally, we will look at recovery times and some of the ways that patients may be able to speed up the process.

Important Long-Term Effects of a Right-Sided Stroke

These strokes can be devastating with a severe lack of function in many systems. This includes

  1. Motor function
  2. Language skills
  3. Memory issues
  4. Emotional distress

There are many long term effects that people dealing with a right-sided stroke need to consider. It is too easy to focus on the issues that are obvious to the spectator. Language issues and motor function problems are perhaps the most well-known complications from a right-sided stroke.

We expect these from our relatives, and perhaps may focus on them when talking about recovery. Relatives don’t always immediately see the other problems related to physiological dysfunction or additional cognitive issues.

The more that we understand, the easier it is to help patients. Before we look at some of the underlying issues, let’s look at the loss of motor function.

Loss of Motor Function in the Left-Hand Side:

The first symptom of a stroke that most of us are aware of is a weakness to one side of the body. Patients find that one side has limited mobility, perhaps even paralysis in some areas. This could be seen in the hands and feet, down one arm or along the entire length of that side of the body.

The severity will depend on the experience and the impact of the stroke. Those that experience this on the left side of the body will have suffered a right-sided stroke. This may seem like a contradiction at first. But, the term refers to the side of the brain where the stroke occurred.

The hemisphere of the brain that controls motor function is opposite to the limbs it controls. Therefore, the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body.

Losing a Dominant Hand:

This all means that those with a right-sided stroke will suffer the loss of function in their left hand, rather than their right. There are some people that will feel that this is a small blessing in some ways. Around 90% of the population is right-handed.

Therefore, the loss of the left hand and/or arm means that they should still have the use of their most dominant hand. They can, therefore, have a higher chance of retaining or relearning, writing skills and other functions. It isn’t such good news for the 10% of people that are left-handed. This minority will struggle to write, draw or perform what used to be basic tasks.

Loss of Right-Brain Function:

A right-sided stroke damages functionality in a certain way. If the left brain was all about the logical way that the brain works, the right brain balances that out. Here we have the more artistic, creative side of the brain. There are people that favor one side of the brain more than the other.

Some people see themselves as naturally creative with a talent for art, music or writing. They are perhaps daydreamers that wear their hearts on their sleeves. So what happens to a someone with strong right brain functionality when they have a right-sided stroke?

Emotional Responses:

As the right side of the brain is the emotional center, there are some patients that may experience difficulties expressing their emotions. For some, this could be a simple issue of poor communication or mood swings. Others may develop deeper changes in their personality. This can be difficult to handle – perhaps more so for the family than the patient.

Another issue at the more extreme end of this scale is emotional lability. This is where patients exhibit an involuntary outburst of emotion. This nature of these outbursts can be a shock to all involved. Parents may end up lashing out at children in ways they don’t intend. It can be difficult at the point to explain that it is the stroke causing the outburst – that the patient didn’t really mean it.

Facial Recognition Problems:

The right side of the brain is also important for recognizing faces. Damage and disruption here could result in a condition called agnosia. This means that patients cannot process sensory information correctly anymore. A big issue here is the recognition of basic shape and objects. Again, this can have a profound impact on family members if patients suddenly lose facial recognition.

This, combined with other drastic changes, can give the impression that a patient is slipping away. Thankfully, with some time and care. This can improve. Families need the patience to work on treatment plans and celebrate improvements. This issue with sensory information may also mean that stroke sufferers can’t interpret tastes and smells in quite the same way either.

Strokes Symptoms Experienced in Both Right and Left-Sided Stroke Victims

Disability following a right-sided stroke isn’t limited to this loss of function in the left-hand side of the body. Problems can occur from head to toe. This includes:

  • 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.

Identifying the origin of the stroke is important. Once doctors locate the starting point, they have a better idea of how to intervene. They can handle clots and hemorrhagic strokes and narrow down potential side-effects.

At the same time, it is vital that medical professional keep an open mind about the different effects that a stroke can have on a patient. Issues like poor concentration, short-term memory loss, and declining mental health can happen to any victim.

Some struggle with dysphagia and have problems swallowing, or perhaps suffer from incontinence due to weakness in the muscles. Others deal with nerve issues and muscle fatigue throughout the body. There is also the risk of an inability to control body temperature issues and reduced sexual ability.

Neglect:

One of the first common symptom to talk about here is one that many people may not know about. There is a side-effect in stroke victims that is referred to as neglect. When this basically means is that people with loss of function on one side may actually end up neglecting that side of the body. People with a right-sided stroke may be so reliant on the right side of their body that they neglect their left arm or left leg completely.

Furthermore, they may not even think to acknowledge that side of their body. This means that some may not turn to look at this side or recognize anything in that vicinity of their body. This is a dangerous issue for anyone dealing with stroke recovery.

As you will see below, right-sided stroke patients need to focus on that weaker side to improve strength. This neglect could hamper those attempts. The longer that this neglect continues, the harder it will be to achieve the best results in recovery.

Right-Sided Stroke and Mental Health:

Mental health issues are all too common with people dealing with long term disability. That is what a stroke is for many people. This isn’t a one-time event or short-term illness with a clear recovery plan. This is a long-term problem that disrupts a patient’s life.

They may have to deal with changes to their vocation, living arrangements, social life, and financial situation. Spouses and children may end up acting like carers. It is no surprise that patients develop depression and signs of anxiety about their prognosis. Anxiety and stress are issues that you may not associate with stroke victims at first.

However, it is easy to see why these mental health issues can develop in those with right-sided stroke symptoms. Those that experience issues with the creative side of their brain may be anxious about the future impact of these changes. Those that struggle to recognize faces may have stress as they struggle with their relationships.

Then there is the issue of denial. There are some stroke victims that form a sense of detachment from their damaged limb. Some struggle to see a paralyzed leg or arm as part of their own body. There are even cases where people insist that the limb must belong to someone else. Then there are those that simply deny that they ever had a stroke at all. These denial cases are a way of making sense of the situation – even if the reasoning isn’t rational. All of these issues highlight the importance of strong, supportive psychological care for stroke patients.

Attention and Memory:

Patients with both left and right-sided stroke issues can also suffer from concentration issues and poor attention spans. It appears that it doesn’t matter whether patients are typically left-brained or right-brained. Both can find themselves dealing with lapses.

On a related note, many also find that their short-term memory suffers. The brain is unable to process the information and make connections in such a way that they retain information. They may struggle to remember why the entered a room or may leave appliances running. This can be frustrating, but patients can overcome this issue with the right therapeutic tools.

Treatment and Recovery for Those With Right-Sided Strokes

Every stroke sufferer needs a strong, personalized recovery plan that brings together key services. This combined approach can help patients work on individual problems and see results. This can include the following:

  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Physiotherapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Alternative medicine

Rehabilitation Facilities:

Rehabilitation facilities can prove to be a vital lifeline for stroke patients in need of intensive care. They can be a valuable resource during the early stages of stroke recovery – when patients can’t stay at home and have the most complex care needs. Some will stay in inpatient facilities for a couple of weeks as they receive dedicated care. Nursing facilities can provide a similar approach, but with tailored treatment plans.

Those that have the desire and ability to remain at home have the option of either an outpatient service or at-home care. The former offers the same services as the inpatient facility, but there is no need to stay. Home-based programmes are convenient in the comfort of a patient’s home, but may not be as extensive.

Physiotherapy:

Physiotherapy is an important tool for treating paralysis in right-sided strokes. These sessions of physical activity provide a combination of Motor-skill exercises, range-of-motion exercises and mobility exercises to get limbs moving. Regular use can strengthen muscles and allow the user to regain the function of the weakened limbs. Some centers will also offer help with mobility aids. The best facilities will provide a combination of exercises and tools to help individuals achieve their goals with ease.

Speech Therapy:

A speech therapist can be a great option for those that struggle with language issues as the result of a right-sided stroke. Impairments to the right brain mean problems communicating about different emotions, but also in finding the right words or following the melody of flow of a conversation.

Time spent with a speech therapist could help patients correct these issues more quickly. This dedicated approach also means professional one-on-one sessions where a therapist actually listens and communicates effectively. This could help users when dealing with other specialists and family members.

Psychotherapy:

The many emotional issues associated with a right-sided stroke and right-brain injuries means that psychotherapy could prove useful too. Patients that deal with those emotional outbursts, recognition issues and personality changes could benefit from professional help. Psychologists can also provide guidance for those dealing with depression, anxiety, and stress. These issues can be big obstacles between a diagnosis and a clear, effective recovery plan.

Alternative Therapies:

Finally, there are also some alternative therapies that some patients may find helpful when dealing with stroke symptoms. Electro-stimulation is a little more controversial than most contemporary measures. Yet, there are some supporters that advocate its use for aiding brain function.

Others may find that acupuncture is a helpful tool for some of their individual ailments. What matters is that patients find a safe, affordable solution that works for them.

Recovery Rates for Right-Sided Stroke Victims

This is a long list of possible illnesses and complication related to a right-sided stroke. The potential cognitive issues are a concern for many people as no-one wants to lose their language skills. Those in creative roles, or with creative personalities, will be concerned about the impact on their vocation and personal lives. Then there are issues with mobility and other physical traits. It all sounds like a lot of problems to fix. Thankfully, there are lots of trained therapists and medical professionals out there that are ready to help.

The options above are all vital in the ongoing treatment of people with complications from right-sided strokes. The long-term effects on physical and mental health, along with those speech and memory issues, mean that patients have a long road ahead of them. The question for many patients and relatives at this stage is simple – just how long is that road, and is there a clear end in sight? A concern for those dealing with these ongoing sessions is that the efforts are futile and patients won’t make a full recovery.

So Can You Recover from Right-Sided Stroke?

A full recovery is possible, but it can take a long time. Starting with the positive side of the process, many patients will find that they make significant gains in the first month of treatment. This is because the brain is essentially working to repair and rewire itself as best it can. Three months into the recovery programme, users should find that the results diminish a little. Recovery becomes a little harder, but the potential for improvement remains. Many finally relearn how to walk within 6 months, but could require more time to work on other skills.

In the end, 25% of right-sided stroke victims should find that they recover many functions and are left with just mild disabilities and side-effects. While this isn’t a full recovery, it is a vast improvement and the impairments may not inhibit daily life too much. 40% will have to deal with more severe issues, such as permanent damage to their mobility, memory or other physical disabilities. 10% will make a full recovery.

The Right Attitude and Support Go a Long Way

The outcome and ability to reach these end goals often depends on the attitude and effort of the patient. Those that are determined to improve their health and return to a previous lifestyle are more likely to succeed. Regular effort in a range of sessions means that they can redevelop muscle memory, strength, and other functions. Practice makes perfect.

Also, those that explore different avenues with a positive outlook could continue on a more positive path. Of course, this is all made much easier with the support of the right people. Friends and family members need to lend a hand, encourage these efforts and lend emotional support wherever it is required. Doctors need to make sure that therapy sessions are accessible and that centers are welcoming for those with severe impairments.

So What Have We Learned About Right-Sided Strokes?

A right-sided stroke does have a lot in common with a left-sided one. There are similarities in physical, cognitive and mental health issues that are shared across the board.

However, there are some clear differences that can shape the experience of the patient and their families. Some may believe that a right-sided stroke is “better” because it causes weakness on the left-hand side of the body. This could mean fewer issues for right-handed people.

Still, there are some serious implications for memory and emotional health. This stroke can inhibit the function of the right side of the brain. This could mean emotional issues and facial recognition problems that are difficult to deal with.

Thankfully, there are stroke specialists in a range of fields that can work with patients and families to get the very best results. Physiotherapists are on-hand to improve muscle function in the left-hand side of the body. Speech therapists can help those that struggle to communicate. Psychologists could also prove to be helpful for those dealing with emotional trauma, denial, and depression.

Recovery is possible – although difficult for many right-sided stroke victims. Those that can push past their obstacles and create a strong plan could get back to the personality traits and abilities they once had.

Whatever the prognosis, and whatever the side-effects that your loved one may experience, they will need your support. This means a positive, proactive approach to therapy from the start. Your encouragement can help them to manage all kinds of treatment options.

Also, the more you learn about the stroke and their individual disabilities, the better the chance of guiding them to a better way of life. Together, you can overcome the impact of a right-sided stroke.