1. Strokes don’t just affect elderly people. 25% of strokes occur in people who are under 65, and evidence shows that the number of strokes occurring in people aged 40-50 are on the rise. However, it is not uncommon for a stroke to occur while a person is in their 30s, 20s or even their teens. Often young sufferers take longer to be diagnosed because of their age, and their symptoms can be passed off as migraines or even panic attacks, meaning crucial treatment is delayed.
  2. Sensory changes can be overwhelming. After a stroke it is common to feel more sensitive to stimuli, meaning that noise or crowds can feel incredibly stressful. This is called hyperesthesia and can make you more sensitive to noise, touch, texture or even taste. This may be accompanied by dysesthesia or paraesthesia (abnormal nerve sensations which feel like burning or pricking of your skin, or an aching of your limbs). Conversely, it may be that your skin feels less sensitive to touch (hypothesia). Many people experience numbness or won’t notice pressure or pain on their skin, and this can be accompanied by feeling less sensitive to temperature. This can be dangerous and lead to injury as a result of burning or scalding accidents so extra care needs to be taken if suffering from hypothesia.
  3. Up to 1 in 20 people will suffer from ‘psychotic symptoms’ following stroke, such as hallucination or delusions. Hallucinations can be auditory or visual. Visual hallucinations can be due to a loss of vision (as the brain ‘fills in the gaps’ of your vision and generates images) or due to damage in the midbrain (causing vivid and colourful hallucinations of animals, patterns or shapes). It is also common to experience tastes, smells or sensations which aren’t there or experience delusions (strong beliefs about something that is untrue, which may cause fear or paranoia). These symptoms can be experienced even if someone doesn’t experience any physical symptoms, and they may not start until weeks or even months after the stroke itself.
  4. A third of people will suffer from communication problems such as aphasia (affecting the ability to read or write, speak or understand speech) or Dysarthria (the weakening of the muscles which control speaking, affecting clarity of speech). This can be incredibly frustrating and have a psychological effect on a sufferer as their ability to socialise is greatly affected, which leads to the next point…….
  5. The effects of stroke can have an impact on friendships and relationships and lead to social isolation as the sufferer becomes increasingly withdrawn. Symptoms can be frustrating and confusing for survivors, their friends and families. Social interaction can become increasingly difficult as sufferers struggle to participate and engage. Embarrassment surrounding the physical and emotional effects of stroke sometimes leads survivors to withdraw from social situations. Anxiety, low mood or changes in the way you view your body can lead to less interest in sex, and romantic relationships come under strain as your roles in the relationship may change. Single people may lose confidence or suffer low self-esteem which can be a hindrance to finding new relationships.
  6. Fatigue can be overwhelming. Pathological fatigue can be present almost constantly and may not improve even after rest. It is very commonly experienced and for many, can be the most difficult symptom to manage. Fatigue is experienced differently by each person, but symptoms include a feeling of exhaustion or overwhelming tiredness; weakness and a lack of energy; little motivation; difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly; struggling to make decisions and difficulty controlling emotions. It can prevent sufferers getting on with their everyday life.
  7. Emotional and behavioural changes can have worrying consequences. Stroke impacts the brain, which controls our behaviours and emotions, so it’s unsurprising that after stroke people may experience irritability, anger, anxiety or confusion. It is also common to act impulsively, be less inhibited and have difficulties anticipating consequences following damage to the brain. This can lead to a range of behaviours including spending more money than you can afford, not reading social situations well or making tactless remarks, which can lead to a breakdown in relationships.
  8. It has been estimated that 75% of people will suffer executive dysfunction issues post-stoke. This can cause issues with multi-tasking, completing tasks, planning and organisation and impede a sufferer’s return to work after a brain injury. Even simple tasks such as cooking a meal can be exhausting as sufferers struggle with thinking ahead or planning the sequence of steps needed to complete a task. Sufferers often experience low motivation or loss of interest in things they used to enjoy, as everything seems more difficult to achieve.
  9. The brain has an amazing ability to repair itself. Neuroplasticity is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization – essentially, the brain has an ability to ‘re-wire’ itselfand adapt to changes in an individual’s environment by forming new neural connections over time. The brain is able to adapt, master new skills, and even recover after a stroke. This process is constantly happening so although symptoms may feel overwhelming, don’t give up, many symptoms ease with time.
  10. There is more support out then that you might think – People suffering from the symptoms above such as hallucinations, delusions or sensory changes often benefit from psychological treatment, techniques like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or meditation to help manage their symptoms. For painful sensation changes, treatment can include medication such as antidepressants.

There are a range of organisations providing, help, support and advice for people who have suffered from a stroke, as well as support for their families and loved ones.

Headway, the Brain Injury Association offers advice to people who have suffered all types of brain injury, including stroke.

Different Strokes is an amazing charity for people who have suffered from stroke, and are passionate about helping younger stroke survivors and their families.

To discuss symptoms of brain injury, or for help and support, call 0808 800 2244 or email [email protected]

A wealth of information can also be found at the Stroke Association and the NHS.