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The long-term effects of a stroke aren't just physical, p. 2

The actress Patricia Neal is one of the most famous stroke survivors. Having won an Academy Award and a Tony Award, Neal was at the height of her career when she inexplicably suffered a series of strokes. The physical and emotional toll of her illness and recovery prevented her from performing, from making a living for years after.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of long-term disability in the U.S. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports that, in 1999, more than 1 million adult stroke survivors nationwide said they experienced functional limitations and had trouble performing everyday tasks. Stroke affects the patient as well as his or her family and loved ones, and it costs society.

In our last post, we talked about the different types of stroke. All three -- ischemic, hemorrhagic and transient ischemic attack -- result in brain damage. We won't go into the brain science here; we are more interested in how a stroke changes the life of the survivor.

Effects of stroke

No two strokes are alike. The location and extent of the damage to the brain will determine generally the type and extent of any physical side effects. Most stroke patients will experience some kind of disability, though. Paralysis or muscle stiffness, seizures, chronic pain, vertigo, double vision -- a stroke patient may have to deal with any number of physical challenges.

Communication can also be a problem. A stroke can alter a person's ability to speak or to understand everyday language. They can have trouble retrieving words and forming sentences. Reading and writing skills can suffer.

Stroke patients can change deep down, too. Their behavior can change; their emotional responses can change. Again, this is a brain injury, and the brain controls our behavior and emotions. The physical damage to the brain can transform a loved one into a completely different person.

That transformation may have a number of causes, though.

We'll finish this up in our next post.

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Alan Olson practices employment law throughout the United States from his offices in New Berlin, Wisconsin. Attorney Olson may be contacted at [email protected] with questions about the information posted here or for advice on long-term disability benefits claims.

Source: American Heart Association, About Stroke, accessed May 18, 2012

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