Thank you to everyone who joined us on May 28, for our live chat on Stroke Recovery. There were some great questions and we hope you found stroke neurologist, Dr. Samir Belagaje’s discussion informative. If you missed the chat, feel free to review the full chat transcript.
There was such a good response, we didn’t have time to address all of the questions you submitted during the chat, so we will answer those below:
Question: What other things can be done besides going to a recovery center?
Dr. Belagaje: Certainly one can develop a home exercise/rehabilitation plan and continue to work on improving their stroke related deficits in that fashion. However, I strongly recommend that stroke recovery be completed under the guidance of a health care expert in that area or going to a stroke recovery center. They can look at medications which may be adversely affecting the recovery process, start new ones, screen/treat for depression, and provide opportunities to participate in clinical trials which would allow one to get access to latest technology and developments.
Question: Does the brain actually recover from a stroke or are you just ‘retraining’ different parts of your brain? How is it recovering?
Dr. Belagaje: Great question! People recover from stroke in 3 major ways:
- Adaptation– In this method, people just “learn to live with deficits” and find ways to adapt or get along with them. Examples would be the use of prisms in eye glasses for post-stroke visual problems or using a cane/walker to help with walking. Another example would be for a person to learn to feed themselves with their opposite hand
- Regeneration– this involves growing new brain cells and them getting to the area of stroke and repairing that area. This is the way that stem cells and other biotherapeutics may help. It is an exciting area for stroke recovery research.
- Rewiring– this is probably the major way of stroke recovery in the brain and the mechanism most therapy is geared towards. It is also the way that you are alluding to in your question when you talk about “retraining different parts of the brain”. Most therapy is geared towards getting those undamaged parts of the brain to rewire and take over the function of the damaged portions
Question: My dad lives in the UK and suffered a stroke. What can he do to help himself?
Dr. Belagaje: Sorry to hear about your father. It really depends how long ago his stroke was and what kind of deficits he has post-stroke. In general terms, he should continue to stay as active as possible and continue to work on his deficits with therapy/rehab team. I would also encourage family and close friends to monitor for post-stroke depression symptoms and alert his health care providers if they notice depression symptoms.
Question: How do you regain normal vision after stroke?
Dr. Belagaje: Admittedly, post-stroke vision deficits are challenging as we don’t have as good and effective and proven visual rehab therapy/techniques compared to some other deficits. If her stroke is greater than 6 months, I would recommend seeing a neuro-ophthalmologist for possible prisms in the glasses (this would be an adaptation technique I mentioned in an answer to another question). In addition, working with an occupational therapist (OT) may also help to improve visual field deficits and develop compensation techniques.