Whether or not stroke symptoms are permanent depends on the severity of the stroke, and how fast the recovery in the months following. Following treatment and therapy programs is very important.

Having a stroke can be devastating and the future may seem bleak, however many people can recover function and continue to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Each stroke is different. The effects are dependent on the size of the brain injury and the area that has been affected. Some people may have minor symptoms that don’t last for long, while other individuals may face more challenging ongoing problems. Research shows that around one in ten people recover almost completely from their stroke, with a further quarter being left with only minor impairments.

Are stroke symptoms permanent?

It’s not just the size and location of the stroke that have an impact on recovery. Early treatment, prompt rehabilitation and your age and general health and fitness can all affect the speed and extent of recuperation. There is also evidence that each individual is the boss of their own wellbeing. People that are enthusiastic and hard-working during recovery get better results, which should provide some positive motivation at this difficult time.

A stroke affects the way the brain and the body functions. Although each stroke is unique, there are patterns of problems that affect many people in the days and months following the initial brain injury:

  •   Muscle weakness or paralysis, usually affecting one side of the body. This can be uncomfortable and distressing and will have an impact on movement, balance and function.
  •   Fatigue and debility. A stroke is a major illness which takes its toll physically. Repairing damage caused to the brain takes a lot of energy, which understandably causes fatigue.
  •   Visual disturbance, including blurring, double vision and blind spots.
  •   Difficulties swallowing.
  •   Problems with continence of both bladder and bowel.
  •   Speech and communication problems. Many people are affected by slurring and aphasia, which is difficulty speaking, understanding and following a conversation.
  •   Difficulties with memory and thought. There may be early memory loss but there can also be longer term problems with planning and problem solving.
  •   Emotional problems: A stroke is a major life event, affecting work and home life, which can affect mental wellbeing.  Depression and anxiety are common. The changes in the brain can also affect behaviour and make it more difficult to control emotions.
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If you would like to learn more about stroke; the history, causes, and the various treatments, see Stroke: A Deeper Dive

Brain power

The brain is an extraordinary organ and can recover in a number of ways. If clot-busting treatment is given at an early stage, blood flow to the brain may be restored before too much harm is done. The cells could be damaged rather than dead, meaning they may gradually heal and start working again. Alternatively, a different part of the brain may take over a lost function, or the brain can develop new ways of performing a task.

Early recovery

There is no fixed pattern of progress, but the early recovery stage is usually the swiftest and most significant, with bigger improvements usually being seen over the first three or four months. However, there is still cause for optimism even after this time, with some survivors showing ongoing recovery for up to two years after their stroke.

Long-term recovery and rehabilitation

Recovery doesn’t stop after leaving the hospital ward. A team of people will be on hand to help with ongoing progress, providing guidance as skills are relearned. They may also offer aides and equipment to support mobility, function and continence, to make life a little easier.

It can be a physically demanding and frustrating process, but it’s important to stay patient and positive. Doing the exercises and regularly practising the tasks your therapist has set will help on the road to recovery.

There will be set-backs along the way. After a stroke it’s common to be vulnerable to illnesses and infections. Taking time to rest and recuperate before getting back to the work of rehab is important. Feeling down or disheartened is natural, but it’s important to remember these words from the Stroke Association:

Focus on the things you can do and remind yourself of the improvements you’ve made so far. Never assume that you won’t get any better, you may just need more time.

If you’re caring for someone who has had a stroke, HomeTouch can help. Whether it’s a day off to run errands and catch-up with friends, or a week or two for a well-earned holiday, we have highly qualified carers available on a live in or hourly basiswho can help you through this time.

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If you’re unsure about the prospect of care, that’s ok. You can download our impartial guide to elderly care (which is applicable no matter the age of your loved one) and get to know the many options available. There’s no harm in knowing more, and a carer might be able to provide you and your loved one with the support you need.

Find out more about strokes:

Dr Jane Gilbert

Jane has over 20 years’ experience as a health writer and TV presenter. Jane writes on a wide variety of clinical and care topics – from explaining the latest studies and research to unpacking conditions and discussing treatment options. Jane holds a MBBS degree from Imperial College, London and spent seven years working in the NHS.

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