The effects of a right brain stroke

A stroke is a strangulation of an area of the brain due to a lack of oxygen caused by a blockage, haemorrhage or embolism. Symptoms and aftereffects of a stroke will vary depending on where the stroke occurs.

A stroke that occurs in the right hemisphere of the brain can have effects on the muscles of the left side of the body, memory function, vision and spatial cognizance.

Left-Side Paralysis

The most obvious physical symptom of a right-side stroke is paralysis or weakness in the left side of the body. Each of the two hemispheres of the brain controls muscle function on the opposite side of the body, so someone who is having or has had a right-brain stroke will experience weakness or paralysis on the left side. However, the right side of the face will usually be affected too, often causing that side to have a saggy, drooping appearance.

Spatial Cognizance Problems

The right side of the parietal lobe controls visual-spatial functions, such as judging the distance, position, size and speed of objects. This means that people who have had a right-side stroke often have trouble with depth perception and with judging where they are in relation to objects in their surroundings. This makes it difficult for these patients to reach for and grasp objects, to walk up or down stairs, to bring food to their mouths, to get dressed and to perform a myriad of other everyday functions. Some patients may even try to read a book without realising that it is upside down.

Difficulty Reasoning

The right side of the brain is also responsible for analytical thinking. People whose right hemispheres have been damaged by a stroke may find it difficult to reason clearly or to solve even simple problems.

Personality Changes

Some stroke victims experience personality changes. While survivors of left-brain strokes tend to become introverted and meek, those who have had right-brain strokes may become more impulsive and inquisitive. This impulsivity may lead the patient to insist that he or she can still function just as normally as ever and attempt to drive, do difficult tasks by themselves or attempt to walk unaided. This can lead to further injury and can be a very difficult and distressing problem for caretakers to deal with.

Memory Loss

The right side of the brain also controls short-term memory and visual memory. People who have had a right-side stroke may experience short-term memory loss. While they may be able to recall events and song lyrics from decades ago, they may have little or no memory of what happened just a few days ago or that morning. Also, victims of right-brain stroke may have trouble with visual memory. This means that they will have difficulty recognising faces, places and the names or functions of objects.

Visual Impairment and Left-Side Neglect

Signals from the left eye are sent to the right side of the brain, so people may experience visual impairment during and after a right-side stroke. This may range from blurred vision to blindness in that eye. Due to loss of vision in the left eye, some right-brain stroke patients may ignore or forget about people or objects that are on their left sides. This phenomenon is called "left-side neglect."