Stroke ranks amongst the top five leading causes of death in the United States. Not all kinds of strokes are the same, neither are their symptoms, causes, and treatments.
The cerebrum is the largest and most significant part of the brain and comprises the left and right hemispheres. Research indicates left hemisphere strokes to be 54% more common than right hemisphere strokes. Left hemisphere stroke symptoms are also more severe than their right-sided counterparts.
When contrasted with right-sided strokes, mortality rates and endovascular intervention rates for left-sided brain strokes are considerably higher. This article covers the signs and symptoms of strokes on the left side of the brain and their risk factors.
Functions of The Right and Left Brain Hemispheres
The brain is divided into two hemispheres, and each of them is responsible for controlling specific functions in the body. The left hemisphere deals with logic, oral function, linear thinking, critical thinking, reasoning, mathematics, judgment, and language skills.
The right-sided hemisphere is concerned with the artistic side of human existence: it is responsible for intuition, imagination, art, visualization, non-verbal cues, and rhythm. Physically, the right side of the body is controlled by the left side of the brain, and the left side of the body by the right side of the brain.
What is a left hemispheric stroke?
A stroke occurs because of impeded blood circulation to the brain, which causes brain cell damage or death. A left hemisphere stroke occurs when blood supply to the left side of the brain is severely hindered. Left hemisphere strokes can be ischemic or hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke happens when a blood clot forms in the arteries in the brain or travels to the brain through blood vessels from somewhere else in the body.
A hemorrhage stroke, in contrast, occurs when a blood vessel is torn or bursts in the brain. These kinds of strokes require immediate and emergency medical treatment to prevent brain cell death and loss of motor function.
Warning Signs of a Left Hemisphere Stroke
Since the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, the symptoms of a left hemisphere stroke can be seen on the right side of the body. When looking for the warning signs of a stroke, it is essential to remember the words BE FAST to help you in a frenzy. BE FAST stands for the signs and symptoms of a stroke that you need to look for in an individual:
Sudden loss of balance and feeling of numbness in the right side of the body.
Loss or deterioration in vision, especially in the right eye.
Drooping of the right side of the face.
Inability to raise the right arm or right arm dropping when raised.
Slurred or garbled speech, or speech that sounds different from a person’s usual tone.
If an individual is suffering from all or some of these signs, it is time to get immediate medical help! Call 911, an emergency medical health service, or an ambulance immediately.
Symptoms of a Left Hemisphere Stroke
Different kinds of strokes have different types of symptoms, depending upon the severity of the attack or an individual’s medical circumstances. However, certain common symptoms usually appear in people who have a left hemisphere stroke.
- Paralysis, numbness, or weakness in the right side of the body
A patient may be unable to move the right side of the body after a left hemisphere stroke. It is important to keep in mind that this weakness is because of the damage to the brain, not to the right side of the body.
- Cognitive impairments
Since the left hemisphere controls logic, reasoning, critical thinking, judgment, and sequencing, left brain hemisphere damage can cause cognitive impairments of varying degrees and severity, including impeded problem-solving ability and poor memory. In left hemisphere stroke symptoms, cognitive impairments are typically related to verbal working memory.
- Aphasia and difficulty in understanding speech
It is the responsibility of the brain’s left hemisphere to control language and functions related to it. Thus, people who suffer from a left hemisphere stroke naturally develop aphasia, difficulty in understanding speech, and related language complications.
- Apraxia of speech: difficulty in articulation and communication
Apraxia is a medical condition where patients have reduced muscle control. Apraxia of speech patients face difficulty in moving the muscles surrounding the mouth, affecting articulation and the ability to form words and sounds. Individuals with apraxia do not have cognitive disabilities, and although they may know what they want to speak, they cannot get their mouth muscles to form the desired words. Therefore, it is not a language or cognitive complication but rather a motor one.
- Dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing
One of the most common left hemisphere brain stroke symptoms is dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing. This is because of loss of motor function. A person may have trouble swallowing and chewing and may be put on a feeding tube until they recover. A speech-language pathologist can aid in regaining swallowing control ability through oral motor training exercises.
- Visual impairment
Left hemisphere brain damage causes visual impairments in the right eye. A patient may develop hemianopia, which is loss of half of the visual field in the right eye, or visuospatial neglect which is the neglect of the right portion of the body.
- Mood swings
Strokes on the left side of the brain can significantly alter the ability to pay attention, mood, and retain new information. Patients may suffer from unexplained mood swings, forget recent information, and face trouble reading or writing.
All the significant symptoms of a left hemisphere brain stroke result from brain damage. Therefore, it is crucial to retain the brain and strengthen the neural pathways that control movements and behavior after a stroke. Retention of motor function can be carried out by indulging in repetitive exercises and activities that reinforce the pathways in the brain. This phenomenon is known as neuroplasticity.
Risk Factors for a Left Hemisphere Stroke
Risk factors for almost all kinds of strokes are quite similar, the most common of which are as follows:
- A family history of stroke
- Age 55 or older
- Oral birth control pills (especially risky for women who smoke and are older than 35)
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Atrial fibrillation, valve disease, myocardial infarction, or other related cardiovascular disorders
- High blood cholesterol
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Using illegal drugs
Diagnosis of a Left Hemisphere Stroke
Health care providers typically do a thorough and detailed checkup of such patients. They inquire about a patient’s medical conditions, their symptoms, and the time when they started appearing. They may also prescribe:
- Blood tests
Blood tests may monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar level, and the blood’s ability to clot.
Arteriography is a procedure that detects blood flow through x-ray imaging of arteries and can be crucial for stroke patients.
- CT or MRI scans
CT and MRI scans show the complete picture of where a stroke took place, its intensity, possible effects, and the damage it did to a patient’s brain cells. Patients may be intravenously administered contrast liquid so that medical professionals can view complexities in the brain or skull clearly in the scan pictures.
Therefore, it is crucial to tell the healthcare provider if you have any allergies or developed allergic reactions to any contrast agents in the past. It is also essential to wear a surgical gown and remove all metallic accessories, dentures, or piercings before entering the MRI testing room. Telling your healthcare provider about any metal in your body holds paramount significance, as metals can cause serious injury.
Treatment for a Left Hemispheric Stroke
Treatment of strokes is a tricky business and depends upon what kind of stroke an individual has. Following treatments may prove effective in treating left hemisphere strokes:
Thrombolysis is a surgical procedure used to break clots in an artery. It is done using a catheter, which is inserted into the artery with the blood clot. Medicine to break apart the clot is then administered via the catheter. If required, the clot may even be pulled out of the artery through the catheter.
Some patients may need surgical procedures to remove the blood clot or relieve pressure within the brain in serious cases. They may also require surgery to remove plaque build-up in carotid arteries. Depending upon the severity of the stroke and the medical conditions of the patients, surgery may be required to stop the blood flow or remove the blood that has leaked out of the brain’s blood vessels.
Certain medicines enhance the blood’s ability to clot and thus stop bleeding. In contrast, some patients may need medicines to break up blood clots and thin the blood to prevent blood clots from forming. Healthcare providers prescribe medication according to a patient’s medical conditions.
Rehabilitation from a Left Hemisphere Stroke
Apart from treatment procedures, patients suffering from left hemisphere stroke require certain rehabilitation methods for a better and speedy recovery. These procedures utilize repetition to rewire the brain by activating neuroplasticity. Some of the most commonly practiced and effective rehabilitation methods for stroke patients include:
- Physical Therapy
Left hemisphere stroke patients need to retain their brain function by performing activities for stroke rehabilitation. Mobility in patients with hemiplegia and hemiparesis can be significantly improved with such techniques. Physiotherapists prompt patients to participate in rehabilitation techniques during outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation.
Patients can continue their exercises when they get discharged with the use of at-home rehabilitation devices. Several such devices are readily available in the market and motivate the high repetition necessary for desired results.
- Speech Therapy
Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) aid patients of left hemisphere stroke in overcoming aphasia and other side effects related to language and articulation. Patients whose insurance stops covering speech therapy or those without any insurance can use the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy mobile application, which was designed by SLPs to provide speech therapy through mobile devices.
- Vision Therapy
Left hemisphere stroke patients who develop severe vision impairments or vision-related side effects work with an optometrist and usually get specialized glasses and other adaptive equipment. Patients may also get in touch with a vision restoration specialist to naturally improve their vision after a left hemisphere stroke.
- Cognitive Therapy
Specialized cognitive therapy exercises prove highly effective in improving the cognitive function of patients who suffer from severe side effects of left hemisphere stroke.
The side effects of all kinds of stroke, not necessarily left hemisphere stroke, can be devastating and emotionally taxing for patients. It is common for most of them to suffer from post-stroke depression, anxiety, or stress during or after rehabilitation and treatment procedures. Therefore, indulging in talk and other forms of psychotherapy can be very helpful during this recovery time.
Recovery Option for a Left Hemispheric Stroke
Patients who suffer from left hemisphere stroke typically suffer from physical impairments on the right side of the body along with language-related impairments. Although complete recovery can be quite a miracle, consistent use of rehabilitation methods can aid in restoring bodily functions in less time.
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