Stroke Symptoms Common

The most common symptoms of stroke are associated with anterior strokes: strokes in the front of the brain. Anterior strokes involve blood flow problems in the carotid territory. Common symptoms of stroke include difficulties with motor function, sensory difficulties, and problems with “higher brain” functions.

Many of the symptoms of stroke have unfamiliar names. Don’t be put off by terms such as aphasia, apraxia, hemianopia, or hemiparesis: intimidating though these medical terms seem at first, they are easily explained.

Motor Functions: Hemiparesis and Hemiplegia

If a stroke damages the brain’s ability to communicate with muscles, motor function difficulties may result. Hemiparesis describes a partial loss of muscle control on one side of the body, and is one of the classic symptoms of stroke. Hemiplegia is a more severe form of hemiparesis, and describes a complete loss of muscle function on one side of the body. Stroke patients may also develop muscle spasms that cause clenching of the hands and muscle rigidity. In some patients botulinum toxin injections (BOTOX®) have been used to help relieve these muscle spasms.

Dementia

Post-stroke dementia affects an estimated twenty to thirty percent of stroke patients. According to a study in Madrid, Spain, the risk of death within two years of stroke is increased by more than eight times when post-stroke dementia occurs. Of the study participants with post-stroke dementia 84 percent had vascular dementiadementia caused by narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain. Strokes that occur in dementia patients are likely to amplify the symptoms of dementia.

Apraxia

Apraxia results in an inability to plan complex tasks. A person suffering from apraxia is unable to accomplish step-by-step goals or skills. Apraxia may interfere with the brain’s ability to match actions with thought.

Sensory Functions and Agnosia

Agnosia is a common stroke symptom. Agnosia makes it impossible to distinguish or differentiate sounds, images, or tactile stimuli. Agnosia occurs if the brain’s sensory functions are damaged by a stroke. In addition to agnosia, sensory symptoms of stroke may include numbness in different areas of the body.

Hemianopia and Other Vision Problems

Agnosia can cause difficulties processing visual stimuli. Other symptoms of stroke can also affect vision. Damage to the brain’s optical processing can cause hemianopia, an inability to process visual stimuli on one side of the visual field. Monocular blindness describes a more permanent form of hemianopia, where sight is permanently lost in one eye.

Amaurosis fugax describes a sudden loss of vision in one eye caused by transient ischemic attack (TIA). Vision loss is temporary.

Speech and “Higher Brain” Difficulties: Aphasia, Alexia, Acalculia

Aphasia describes an inability to talk. Aphasia is not a physical inability to talk. Instead, aphasia results from an inability to vocalize what is being thought. As an example of how aphasia presents itself, a person with aphasia may say “dog” when he/she means to say “cat.”

Symptoms of stroke can include “higher brain” dysfunction. The ability to perform certain tasks may be lost after a stroke. Alexia describes the inability to read. Acalculia refers to the inability to perform mathematical calculations.

Neglect

Neglect is one of the most unusual symptoms of stroke: the individual cannot focus on half of his or her visual or physical world. When asked to draw a clock, people with neglect only draw half the clock face. Neglect usually affects the left side of the visual field.

Symptoms of Stroke: A Short Glossary

  • acalculia: loss of mathematical skills
  • agnosia: difficulty distinguishing sensory stimulations
  • alexia: loss of reading skills
  • aphasia: difficulties with speaking, reading and writing.
  • apraxia: impairment in the ability to perform complex tasks
  • hemianopia: loss of one half of the visual field
  • hemiparesis: partial loss of movement on one side of the body
  • hemiplegia: total loss of movement on one side of the body.

Resources

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2003). Stroke. Retrieved February 11, 2004, from www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?objectid=487C37FA-C927-45BF-84 821670F1635148