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Effects of Stroke on the Left Side of the Brain: An In-Depth Look at What to Expect

Surviving a stroke can be a major life-changing event that presents various challenges for both individuals and their families. It's essential to have a good grasp of the after-effects. This blog post aims to give a thorough overview of the potential effects of stroke on the left side of the brain, including the specific areas in the brain where the stroke usually occurs, what these deficits may entail, and other pertinent information that can help empower stroke survivors.

You won't have all of these deficits. However, you will likely have a few after your stroke. If you look at your hospital discharge paperwork, they will likely have the type of stroke you had, so you can see below what kinds of deficits you or your loved one may have after their stroke. This is important when it comes to helping you recover.

Here are the Most Common Effects of Stroke on the Left Side of the Brain

Language and Communication (Aphasia)

Location: Temporal Lobe

Two primary areas in the left hemisphere's temporal lobe, Broca's and Wernicke's, are heavily involved in language processing.

What is Aphasia and Its Types?

Aphasia is a language disorder that can take on several forms:

  • Broca's Aphasia: Forming sentences may be difficult and result in telegraphic speech, where only essential words are used and smaller connecting words are omitted.

  • Wernicke's Aphasia: Your speech may be fluent, but it might be challenging to understand if you use nonsensical or irrelevant words. This can make communication frustrating for both parties.

  • Global Aphasia: This form of aphasia severely affects speech production and comprehension. Individuals may be limited to using only a few words or phrases and require assistance understanding spoken language.

  • Anomic Aphasia: You may struggle to find specific words during conversations, causing pauses or use of vague terms like 'thing' despite fluent and grammatically correct speech.

Motor Skills

Location: Primary Motor Cortex

Located in the left hemisphere, the Primary Motor Cortex controls voluntary movements, particularly on the right side of the body.

Types of Motor Deficits

  • Right-Sided Weakness or Paralysis (Hemiparesis): Your right arm and leg may feel heavy and become difficult to lift. In extreme cases, you may experience complete paralysis on your right side, making it impossible to complete daily tasks like walking or picking up objects.

  • Muscle Stiffness (Spasticity): Your muscles may feel tight or rigid, moving difficult and causing discomfort or pain.

  • Fine Motor Skills: Tasks that require precision, such as buttoning your shirt, writing, or using utensils, may become challenging due to shaky movements or difficulty coordinating small muscle activities.

Cognitive Impairments

Location: Prefrontal Cortex

This area plays a significant role in executive functions such as planning, problem-solving, and attention.

Types of Cognitive Deficits

  • Attention Deficits: You might require assistance focusing on tasks for extended periods. Even basic activities that demand sustained attention, such as reading or watching television, can become exhausting or frustrating.

  • Memory Loss: You may experience memory problems such as forgetting recent conversations, frequently misplacing objects, or having difficulty remembering names, even of familiar people.

  • Executive Functioning: Tasks that involve planning, organization, and decision-making can be overwhelming, making day-to-day activities such as managing finances or preparing meals challenging.

Emotional Changes

Location: Limbic System

The limbic system plays a crucial role in regulating emotions.

Types of Emotional Changes

  • Depression: Signs of post-stroke depression may include persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or disinterest in previously enjoyable activities.

  • Anxiety: You may feel constant anxiety and fear, especially about your health and recovery. This could cause restlessness, heart palpitations, or even panic attacks.

  • Emotional Lability: After a stroke, emotional lability can cause sudden mood changes like crying or laughing without cause, which may not reflect true emotions.

Visual and Spatial Abilities

Location: Occipital and Parietal Lobes

These lobes are responsible for visual processing and spatial orientation.

Types of Visual and Spatial Deficits

  • Reading and Writing (Alexia and Agraphia): You may find it difficult to comprehend written text (alexia) or to write sentences that make sense (agraphia). These activities could become frustrating and time-consuming, even if you were an avid reader or writer.

  • Visual Field Loss: It can be challenging to navigate and interact socially when you cannot see objects or people on your right side, as they seem to not exist in your visual field.

  • Spatial Cognition: You might experience difficulty perceiving spatial relationships, which can result in issues with movement and navigation. Tasks such as parking a car or arranging objects on a table may become challenging.

Sensory Impairments

Location: Somatosensory Cortex

This area interprets sensory data from the body.

Types of Sensory Impairments

  • Loss of Sensation: You may experience numbness or tingling on the right side of your body, making it challenging to feel temperature changes or touch, putting you at risk for accidental injuries.

  • Proprioception: You may have difficulty sensing the position of your body parts, which can make coordinated movements like walking or grabbing objects difficult and sometimes unsafe.

Auditory Processing

Location: Temporal Lobe

This lobe is essential for processing sounds and speech.

Types of Auditory Deficits

  • Difficulty in Sound Localization: It can be challenging to focus on conversations or react to warnings in a noisy environment when you need help to identify the source of a sound.

  • Auditory Agnosia: You may have difficulty recognizing familiar sounds or understanding spoken words, even without hearing loss. This can make communication and interaction challenging.

Swallowing and Eating Difficulties (Dysphagia)

Location: Brainstem and Lower Parietal Lobe

These areas are essential for controlling the mechanics of swallowing.

Types of Swallowing Difficulties

  • Swallowing Mechanics: Swallowing difficulties can cause coughing, choking, or a feeling of food stuck in the throat.

  • Nutritional Concerns: Difficulty swallowing after a stroke can lead to weight loss and worsen other health issues due to difficulty consuming liquids and solids.

Behavioral Changes

Location: Frontal Lobe

This area is critical in regulating behavior and personality.

Types of Behavioral Changes

  • Impulsivity: If you struggle with impulsivity, you may act without thinking. Impulsivity can impact many areas of your life, such as interrupting others or making hasty decisions without considering the consequences.

  • Reduced Initiative: The motivation to participate in activities may significantly decrease. Simple tasks like starting conversations or preparing a meal may now require substantial mental effort.

Pain and Discomfort

Location: Thalamus and Sensory Cortex

The Thalamus and Sensory Cortex play a role in processing sensations, including pain.

Types of Pain and Discomfort

  • Thalamic Pain: Thalamic pain, also called Dejerine-Roussy syndrome or central post-stroke pain, is characterized by a burning or tingling sensation on the affected side of the body. This type of pain can be challenging to control and may be triggered by temperature changes or even light touch.

  • Headaches: Headaches after a stroke can be severe and long-lasting. Although it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause, medication may be necessary for relief. Seizures

Sleep Disruptions

Location: Hypothalamus and Brainstem

These regions help regulate sleep-wake cycles and are often affected in a left-sided stroke.

Types of Sleep Disruptions

  • Insomnia: Falling or staying asleep may become a significant challenge, affecting your overall well-being and recovery.

  • Sleep Apnea: Breathing may become irregular during sleep, leading to multiple awakenings. This can result in daytime fatigue and further complicate the recovery process.

Final Thoughts on the Effects of Stroke on the Left Side of the Brain

This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive guide to understanding the potential deficits that may occur after a left-sided stroke. Although these deficits cover most of the things you may experience, it's important to note that each person's experience is unique. Consult with a healthcare professional for a diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Knowledge is empowering, and knowing what to expect can make the recovery journey more manageable.


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