How to Tell the Difference Between One-Sided Neglect and Field Cuts After Stroke

How to Tell the Difference Between One-Sided Neglect and Field Cuts After Stroke

If you fail to notice things on the affected side of your body, then you could be suffering from stroke deficits like one-sided neglect or field cuts.

But how do you know which one?

Both stroke deficits manifest in almost identical ways, but they are completely different.

In this article, we are going to identify the difference between the two and explain why they can cause the same symptoms.

Same Symptoms, Different Problems

The brain is a highly complex organ with different sections specializing in different mental/bodily functions.

When a stroke occurs, it can happen in a number of different areas of the brain and, as a consequence, compromise any number of mental/bodily functions. This results in a vast variety of stroke deficits.

But how do you know which stroke deficits you suffer from?

For example, if a stroke survivor fails to brush their teeth, it could be caused by 1) a lapse in memory or 2) by distraction.

In the first case, the stroke survivor is suffering from impaired memory after stroke. In the second case, the stroke survivor suffers from impaired attention after stroke.

As you can see, it is possible for multiple stroke deficits to manifest in similar ways.

That’s why it’s incredibly important to understand your stroke deficits so that you can participate in the necessary therapy to regain your abilities.

So, are you suffering from one-sided neglect or field cuts?

Field Cuts

Field cuts are a visual impairment.

Also known as hemianopsia, this stroke deficit involves loss of vision which prevents a stroke survivor from seeing on her affected side.  This is caused by damage to the visual system within the brain (i.e. the visual cortex and connecting parts).

When a stroke survivor has field cuts, it means that she has lost the ability to see a portion of her vision. Meaning, part of her vision has been ‘cut’ away.

One-Sided Neglect

One-sided neglect is an attention impairment.

When a stroke survivor suffers from one-sided neglect, she fails to pay attention to the affected side of her body. She simply isn’t aware of that area.

This is caused by damage to the parietal lobe of the brain, which processes sensory information including the location of parts of the body.

For example, when a survivor with left-sided neglect is asked to turn her head to the right, she will turn her head all the way over to their right shoulder.

But if you ask her to turn to the left, then she may turn her head halfway over to her left shoulder despite understanding exactly what was asked.

The problem is not that she doesn’t see her left side, it’s that she can’t pay enough attention to her left side.

Treatments

Typical treatments for one-sided neglect involve daily scanning exercises of the affected side. These can also benefit stroke survivors with field cuts.

For example, a stroke survivor with one-sided neglect can practice scanning a page from left to right. To make this easier, you can mark the neglected side with highlighter to ensure that you scan all the way to that side.

Typical treatments for field cuts involve saccadic eye movement practice. We found a cool resource here that you can use to train your eyes. However, your neurologist may have better recommendations.

By bringing more attention into your affected side, you are stimulating your brain and triggering neuroplasticity, the mechanism that rewires the brain after stroke.

No matter what you do, be sure that you’re performing repetitious and consistent exercises to trigger neuroplasticity. The more you practice, the better you will get at paying attention to your affected side.

Summary

Although the two stroke deficits manifest in similar ways, one-sided neglect and field cuts are very different.

Field cuts involve partial blindness on one side of the body, and one-sided neglect involves the inability to pay attention to one side of the body.

Both stroke side effects can be treated by bringing attention into the affected side daily.

Did this help clarify your question? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Laurie Litchfield

    Kari, I just got Healing and Happiness After Stroke, it looks like an awesome book, can’t wait to read it!
    Laurie Litchfield

    • Flint

      Thanks so much Laurie!! I really hope you like it 🙂 I’d love to know what you think