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After Your Stroke: How to Handle 5 Common Complications


Stroke PatientAfter you’ve had a stroke, some physical or mental complications are likely. Depending on how severe the stroke was and other factors, you may have major or minor difficulties that are sometimes temporary or possibly permanent.

“Each and every stroke is different. Recovery depends on the size and location of the stroke, its cause and the age of the patient,” says neurologist Jayashree Sundararajan, MD.

The most common type of stroke is ischemic — when a blood vessel in the brain develops a clot and cuts off the blood supply to the brain. This describes about 87 percent of strokes.

A hemorrhagic stroke is typically more serious. It occurs when a weakened blood vessel in the brain ruptures. A hemorrhage (bleeding from the blood vessel) happens suddenly.

You may experience one or more of these common complications after your stroke.

1. Blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
When you are in the hospital or immobile for a long time, you are at risk of developing a blood clot. Depending on what caused your stroke, you may have a greater risk of blood clots.

“In the hospital, we focus on DVT, but even when someone is doing better and is mobile, clotting is something to watch for,” Dr. Sundararajan says.

DVT itself is not life-threatening, but a clot may break free and travel through the bloodstream. If it lodges in the blood vessels of the lungs, this causes a life-threatening condition.

Symptoms of DVT include swelling in a leg or arm, sometimes with accompanying pain, redness and warm skin.

Your doctor may prescribe anticoagulant medication (a blood thinner) to help reduce the risk of clotting. He or she likely will run blood tests regularly to make sure the dosage is correct. If you’re on blood thinners, you must avoid cuts and other injuries that could cause bleeding.

2. Depression and other mood changes