9 Complications to Watch for After a Stroke

  • Close up of smiling mother and daughter hugging
    Be Alert to Prevent Problems
    If you or a loved one has a stroke, you may be wondering what’s next. As you begin on the road toward recovery, there’s a risk that certain complications can occur. Knowing what to watch for means you can alert your doctor if you notice anything concerning. Recognizing and treating complications quickly can keep them from getting worse.

  • Female Senior in Care Home
    1. Another Stroke
    Within five years of having a stroke, 24% of women and 42% of men will experience another. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to safeguard yourself against recurrent stroke. In addition to preventive medication that your doctor may prescribe you, discuss with your doctor the risk factors that caused your first stroke so you can address each one. Stopping smoking; taking your medications; eating a diet low in calories, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol; and exercising at least five days per week can decrease your risk, too.

  • Heart Health - iStockMovember2011
    2. Heart Problems
    Stroke and heart disease have several risk factors in common. Some of the shared risk factors include high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and obesity. Work with your doctor to address and treat these issues. If you notice signs of heart disease, such as chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling, or feeling like your heart is fluttering or thumping, contact your doctor right away.

  • Worried senior woman comforting a sick elderly man
    3. Pneumonia
    Pneumonia is one of the most common complications following a stroke, especially in the first 48 hours. It may occur because of swallowing problems. Bacteria can get into your lungs and cause an infection. Your care team will watch for signs of pneumonia after your stroke. If you experience a fever soon after having a stroke, tell your doctor.

  • Held foot with Varicose Veins
    4. Deep Vein Thrombosis
    Stroke can cause paralysis or a decrease in mobility in your legs. This can lead to deep vein thrombosis, in which blood clots form in the veins of your legs. Left untreated, it can cause a blood clot in your lungs, which can be fatal. Signs of deep vein thrombosis that you should watch for include swelling, pain or tenderness in your legs and a fever.

  • woman having aura
    5. Seizures
    A stroke can cause bleeding or injury in the brain, which can lead to a seizure. Alert your doctor if you think you may have experienced a seizure. There are many different types beyond the convulsions that most people picture. Seizures can also cause tingling sensations, shaking, loss of consciousness, or a sense of blanking out for a few seconds.

  • Senior Woman Comforting Depressed Husband Sitting On Bench
    6. Depression
    Feelings of depression following a stroke are common. Stroke often occurs suddenly and can have life-changing effects. It can also cause damage to your brain that can set the stage for depression. If you have signs of depression, seek help right away. Symptoms include feelings of sadness, anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, irritability or fatigue; sleep problems; changes in appetite; loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy; and difficulty concentrating.

  • Fall Risk Bracelet And Wooden Cane
    7. Falls
    A stroke can have lasting effects that increase your risk of falls. Injury to your brain, weakness, paralysis, balance and coordination problems, pain, numbness, fatigue, and certain medications could lead to falls. Ask your doctor whether working with an occupational therapist may be right for you. This is an expert who can help you arrange your home and move around in safer ways to help prevent injuries.

  • Painful shoulder
    8. Pain
    Following a stroke, you may feel pain in your limbs, especially your shoulders. This may be due to weakness or paralysis of the arm, which hangs and pulls on your shoulder. Some people also experience headaches after a stroke. If you have pain, discuss it with your doctor. Taking pain medication or applying ice or heat to the area may help.

  • Caucasian doctor talking to patient in office
    9. Other Complications
    The type of stroke you experienced, the severity of the stroke, and many other factors play a role in the complications you might face afterward. In addition to the complications mentioned here, you could also experience fatigue, bedsores, urinary tract infections, or incontinence. Be your own best advocate and discuss any issues or symptoms with your doctor.

9 Complications to Watch for After a Stroke

About The Author

  1. Complications After Stroke. American Heart Association, American Stroke Association. http://www.strokeassociation.org/idc/groups/stroke-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_30971... 
  2. Depression. American Stroke Association. http://www.stroke.org/we-can-help/survivors/stroke-recovery/post-stroke-conditions/emotional/depress... 
  3. How Cardiovascular & Stroke Risks Relate. American Heart Association, American Stroke Association. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/LifeAfterStroke/HealthyLivingAfterStroke/UnderstandingRis... 
  4. Kumar S, Selim, MH, Caplain LR. Medical Complications After Stroke. Lancet Neurol. 2010;9(1):105-118.
  5. Preventing Another Stroke. American Stroke Association. http://www.stroke.org/we-can-help/survivors/stroke-recovery/first-steps-recovery/preventing-another-... 
  6. Safety. American Stroke Association. http://www.stroke.org/we-can-help/stroke-survivors/living-stroke/lifestyle/safety 
  7. Seizures and Epilepsy. American Stroke Association. http://www.stroke.org/we-can-help/survivors/stroke-recovery/post-stroke-conditions/physical/seizures... 
  8. What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease? National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hdw/signs
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Sep 20
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.