After a left hemisphere stroke, you can optimize recovery by understanding the unique side effects that may occur.
Although every stroke is different, there are known side effects that individuals are more likely to experience after a stroke on the left side of the brain.
Below, you will learn about these side effects along with rehabilitation methods to help you regain lost function. Let’s get started.
Understanding Left Hemisphere Stroke
First, it’s important to know what a stroke is and how it’s treated.
A stroke occurs when the blood flow in the brain becomes blocked by either a clogged artery (ischemic stroke) or burst artery (hemorrhagic stroke).
Brain cells that are deprived of oxygen-rich blood can suffer cell death, which is why a stroke is considered to be a medical emergency.
Upon arriving to the hospital for treatment, doctors can restore blood flow in the brain with blot-busting drugs (for ischemic stroke) or surgery (for hemorrhagic stroke), generally speaking.
After the cause of the stroke has been resolved, rehabilitation begins immediately to restore function and address the side effects that may have occurred.
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Side Effects of Left Hemisphere Stroke
So, what are the effects of stroke on the left side of the brain?
Along with the typical stroke side effects, these are the after-effects unique to left hemisphere strokes:
Hemiplegia or Hemiparesis: Impaired Strength on the Right Side
A stroke on the left side of the brain often results in impairments on the right side of the body.
Hemiplegia refers to paralysis on one half of the body (in this case, the right half), and hemiparesis is defined as weakness on half of the body.
Aphasia: Difficulty with Language
Because the language center of the brain resides in the left hemisphere, left-sided stroke survivors may experience language impairments, like aphasia.
There are many different types of aphasia and it’s important to work with a specialist called a speech-language pathologist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Not all language impairments fall under aphasia, though. There’s also a side effect called apraxia of speech…
Apraxia of Speech: Difficulty with Communication
Apraxia is a condition that impairs control of your muscles. With apraxia of speech, patients have difficulty moving the muscles around the mouth, which will interfere with the ability to form sounds and words.
Although they might know what they want to say cognitively, they cannot get their mouth to form the words. Therefore, this is a motor problem, not a language problem.
Dysphagia: Difficulty Swallowing
Another condition closely tied to language impairments is dysphagia, which refers to difficulty swallowing. A speech-language pathologist can help you regain swallowing abilities by performing oral motor training exercises.
Cognitive Impairments: Difficulty with Memory & Problem-solving
Memory and cognition are brain-wide functions. This means that either a left hemisphere stroke or a right hemisphere stroke can result in cognitive impairments like poor memory or problem-solving.
It’s worth noting, though, that strokes on the left side of the brain are more likely to result in impairments of verbal working memory.
Homonymous Hemianopia: Visual Loss on One Side
Just like cognition, vision is a brain-wide process as well. Patients after a stroke in either hemisphere can sustain vision problems.
However, if a stroke on the left side of the brain results in vision problems, those impairments will manifest in the right visual field. Homonymous hemianopia, for example, results in complete loss of vision on the right half of the visual field in each eye.
There are more side effects that can occur after stroke, but the impairments listed above are the most common for left hemisphere stroke patients.
Rehabilitation Methods for Left Hemisphere Stroke Patients
Now that you know about the side effects, what can be done to restore function?
Here are the best rehabilitation methods for recovery from stroke on the left side of the brain:
- Physical therapy. Performing exercises for stroke rehabilitation can help patients with hemiparesis or hemiplegia improve mobility on the affected right side. Patients can participate in physical therapy during inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. Once patients go home, they can continue to exercise by using devices like Flint Rehab’s FitMi, which motivates the high repetition necessary for results.
- Speech therapy. Working with a speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help you overcome aphasia or other language-related side effects. When insurance stops covering speech therapy, you can use the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App, which was designed by SLPs to provide therapy from your mobile device.
- Cognitive therapy. Just like movement and speech, you can improve cognitive function by practicing cognitive therapy exercises for stroke patients.
- Vision therapy. If you sustained vision impairments, then you can work with an optometrist to get adaptive equipment like glasses. You can also try working with a vision restoration specialist to see if you can naturally improve your vision.
- Psychotherapy. The effects of a stroke can be devastating and often result in post-stroke depression. Participating in talk therapy can be helpful during this time of transformation.
Rehabilitation is all about utilizing repetition to activate neuroplasticity and rewire the brain. All of these methods provide the best results when practiced consistently.
Left Hemisphere Stroke Recovery
Strokes that occur in the left side of the brain often result in language-related impairments along with physical impairments on the right side of the body.
Patients can benefit from participation in physical therapy and speech therapy to help restore these functions.
Every stroke is different, so every recovery will be different. While these guidelines provide a roadmap to recovery, patients should still read up on the other side effects of stroke that may occur as well.