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Regressing After Stroke: When It’s Normal & When to Seek Medical Attention

doctor discussing regressing after stroke with patient

Regressing after stroke could be a sign of a serious medical complication or the natural process of recovery. How do you know if it’s a good or bad sign?

While it’s impossible to diagnose your medical condition over the internet, this article will explain possible causes of regression. That way, you can have an informed conversation with your doctor.

If something serious is happening, seek immediate medical attention.

When Regressing After Stroke Is a Medical Emergency

If your post-stroke symptoms have worsened, take a look at what you have done in the last 24 hours. Did you do anything particularly unusual or participate in strenuous activities?

Laborious physical activity on one day could manifest in extreme tiredness the next day. This should not be considered a regression. Rather, it’s a sign that the body has been taxed and needs time to recoup.

Next, look at how quickly your post-stroke symptoms have worsened. Did things take a dramatic decline within several hours? That is a sign of a medical emergency, and you should call for an ambulance right away.

If your symptoms have gotten slightly worse over the course a few days, it could be a normal part of the recovery process. A stroke recovery journal can help during this time.

Tracking Your Recovery

Stroke recovery is not linear, and most patients experience ups and downs during the recovery process.

It’s helpful to keep a journal of your daily activities, progress, and energy levels. That way, if you experience a sign of regression after stroke, you can look to see if any patterns emerge.

For example, you may “regress” on days after rigorous physical therapy and improve the next day. Once you see the pattern, you may not consider it regression. Instead, it’s a sign that you either pushed too hard or that the body is healing.

By identifying patterns, you can keep your mind at ease whenever it seems like you’re regressing after stroke. When in doubt, always see a doctor! It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Questions to Help You Identify the Cause of Regression

Along with keeping a journal, you can ask yourself these questions if you think you’re regressing after stroke:

Have you been doing anything differently since you started to regress? Take a step back and look at the whole picture. Can you identify any patterns? Talk to your therapist about it. If symptoms are severe, talk to your doctor immediately about it.

Were you taking any new medication when the regression started? Sometimes new medication can cause unwanted side effects. For example, someone in our stroke support group said that a new anti-depressant caused her husband to regress, and weaning him off the medication helped.

Are you overworking yourself? If you strained your body, it can cause backlash, especially during stroke recovery. Try to scale back the intensity of your exercise and see if that helps. The brain takes up more energy during recovery as it’s healing, so be mindful of scare energy resources.

Have you stopped rehabilitation? Sometimes stroke patients get worse once they stop participating in rehabilitation and stop exercising. Try gently restarting your stroke rehab exercises and see if that helps.

Are you more tired than normal? Excessive sleepiness after stroke could be normal, or it could be a sign of other medical complications like sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor if this is happening to you.

Are you more emotional than normal? Changing emotions after stroke are not necessarily a sign of regression. It’s normal for stroke patients to experience grief or anger, which usually pass with time. However, extreme emotional swings could be a sign of pseudobulbar affect, which should be discussed with your doctor.

What do you think has caused this? You know your body best. Sometimes doctors cannot interpret the cause of regression after stroke. It might be chalked up to “every stroke is different, so every recovery is different.” If this happens to you, try to seek a second medical opinion and meticulously track your progress so that you have something to reference.

Understanding the Stroke Recovery Process

During stroke recovery, there will be good days and bad days. Sometimes the bad days are bad weeks, and that’s usually okay if no extra medical complications are present.

Understanding regression after stroke involves carefully interpreting the difference between big declines that deserve medical attention and small declines that are normal. Keep your doctor informed of what’s happening.

Overall, when you zoom out and look at the big picture, there should be a pattern of growth. Little setbacks are normal and expected.

If your loved one suddenly experiences a rapid decline in progress, that’s when you seek medical attention immediately.

Best of luck on the road to recovery!

Featured image: ©iStock.com/Lordn

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