Right-Sided Strokes: What to Expect

They can cause specific problems that you should know about

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Strokes are defined as right-sided or left-sided based on which hemisphere (side) of the brain is affected. Since different regions of the brain control specific functions, the effects of a stroke correlate to the damaged area of the brain.

A right-sided stroke can cause many symptoms. The most noticeable are those that affect the left side of the body, which is controlled by the right side of the brain.

This article will discuss the types of right-sided strokes, signs, effects, treatment, and prevention.

Signs of Right-Sided Stroke: A person holding their arm (for sudden weakness of face, arm, or leg), severe dizziness (a person with hand to their head), balance issues (a person standing up unsteadily), confusion (a person with question marks around), head pain, (a person with thunderbolts on the head), difficulty walking (a person being assisted while standing up)

Verywell / Ellen Lindner

Types of Right Hemisphere Strokes 

Any stroke, including a right-sided stroke, can occur due to either a blood clot, bleeding, or both. 

Ischemic

An ischemic stroke is caused by a decrease in blood flow to an area of the brain. Even a few minutes of inadequate blood flow can cause damage to the brain tissue. 

An ischemic stroke can be caused by a blood clot in a large blood vessel or a small blood vessel. Usually, blockage of blood flow in a small vessel causes less damage than blockage of blood flow in a larger vessel. 

Often, small vessel strokes occur due to atherosclerosis of an artery in the brain. Atherosclerosis is a combination of blood vessel damage and a buildup of material that can eventually lead to complete blockage of blood flow.

Sometimes strokes are caused by a blood clot that traveled from the heart or the carotid artery to the brain. This is more common with large vessel strokes

Hemorrhagic 

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel leaks into the brain. Blood causes harmful irritation to the brain tissue, and the bleeding also deprives the nearby area of the brain of adequate blood supply. 

Signs 

A right-sided stroke can occur suddenly, and it can cause: 

  • Sudden weakness of the face, arm, or leg
  • Severe dizziness, balance problems, and difficulty walking 
  • Confusion 
  • Head pain, especially from a hemorrhagic stroke 

Sometimes a stroke can evolve rapidly, and the symptoms can seem confusing and overwhelming. If you or someone else experiences any of these signs, get medical attention immediately. 

Effects 

The specific effects that you experience from a right-sided stroke can become more obvious to you as you become more medically stable in the days after the initial event. Effects can persist for years, and sometimes the effects can improve over time.

A right-sided stroke causes immediate and lasting effects that differ from those of a left-sided stroke. 

Hemiplegia on the Left Side

Hemiplegia is paralysis (complete loss of movement) on one side of the body. A right-sided stroke can cause hemiplegia of the whole left side of the body.

More commonly, this type of stroke causes left-side hemiparesis, which is diminished strength, without total paralysis. It usually affects only the face, arm, or leg—not necessarily the whole left side.

Sometimes, months or years after the stroke, spasticity (muscle stiffness or rigidity) can develop in the weak muscles. This occurs when a stroke affects the right motor strip of the cerebral cortex (which helps control movement) or the right internal capsule (nerve fibers from the motor strip run through this area).

Diminished Sensation on the Left Side 

After a right-sided stroke, it is possible to have diminished sensation or loss of sensation on the left side of the body. Sometimes paresthesias (numbness, tingling, or other unusual sensations) or pain can develop in the areas of the body that have diminished sensation. This usually begins after weeks, months, or longer. 

Sensory disturbances on the left side of the body can occur due to a stroke in the right sensory strip of the cerebral cortex or the right thalamus. 

Prosopagnosia

One of the rare effects of a right-sided stroke is prosopagnosia, which is an inability to recognize faces. This can occur due to a stroke affecting the right fusiform gyrus, an area near the back of the brain that works to help identify faces.

Left Neglect

One of the distressing characteristics of a right-sided stroke is deceased attention to the left side of the body or an inability to recognize the area of the body impacted by the stroke. As with other effects of a right-sided stroke, the severity of this problem can range from mild to severe.  

Neglect can occur when a stroke affects the right parietal lobe (a back part of the brain). 

Challenges of Neglect

Neglect after a right-sided stroke can make it especially difficult to participate in physical therapy and other aspects of rehabilitation.

Homonymous Hemianopia

A right-sided stroke can cause loss of vision on the left side from both eyes. This can affect the whole left side, or only the upper or lower part of vision on the left side. This is called left homonymous hemianopia.

A stroke affecting the right occipital lobe, which is the farthest back region of the brain, can cause left homonymous hemianopia. 

Anosognosia

This complex effect is the inability of a person to recognize that they have a disability from a stroke. It is similar to neglect, but there are some subtle distinctions because a person who is experiencing anosognosia may recognize the impaired area of the body, but can be unable to recognize the impairment. 

Anosognosia can occur due to damage in the right parietal, temporal, or frontal lobe of the brain. 

Pseudobulbar Affect 

This condition can occur due to a number of different neurological conditions, including a right-sided stroke. The symptoms of pseudobulbar affect include episodes of uncontrollable emotional outbursts, such as laughing or crying. They may be inappropriate, as the emotions come out at random times and don't always make sense.

It can be embarrassing for some people who may be distressed by their own lack of emotional control. People who have had a very large stroke might not notice the effects or might not be distressed about it. 

Treatment 

There are several treatments for a stroke. When the symptoms first begin, treatment can include blood pressure control, fluid management, and sometimes blood thinners. These interventions can reduce the damage of a stroke and improve survival. 

After the acute stage of a right-sided stroke, treatment involves rehabilitation. This can include physical therapy, speech and swallow therapy, cognitive therapy, and occupational therapy to help maximize movement and self-care. 

Prevention 

After a stroke, prevention of further strokes is important. Diagnostic testing involves tests that assess stroke risk factors. Prevention is focused on managing risk factors to reduce the chances of another stroke. 

Prevention includes:

  • Maintaining optimal blood pressure 
  • Diet modification and medical treatment to achieve healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels 
  • Control of diabetes 
  • Blood thinners if there is a high risk of blood clots
  • Treatment of heart problems, such as valve disease, coronary artery disease, and irregular heart rhythms 
  • Smoking cessation

Prevention involves consistent surveillance of risk factors and assessment of risk factor control. 

Summary

A stroke can have many different effects, depending on which side of the brain is affected. A right-sided stroke can cause left-sided weakness, left-sided sensory loss, loss of vision from the left side of both eyes, personality changes, neglect of the left side of the body, and lack of recognition of the stroke.

The risk of having a stroke can be reduced if risk factors are identified and managed. Often, a stroke can be treated, but there can be residual effects. The larger a stroke, the more substantial the effects. Stroke rehabilitation is an important part of recovery. 

A Word From Verywell

It can be confusing to hear that you or a loved one had a stroke on the right side of the brain, especially when you are having symptoms on the left side of your body. Recovery after a stroke can be challenging. If you know what to expect after a right-sided stroke, it can help you get the most out of your rehabilitation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between a left-sided stroke and a right-sided stroke?

    The difference is that a right-sided stroke affects the right side of the brain, while a left-sided stroke affects the left side of the brain. They each can cause weakness and diminished sensation on the opposite side of the body. A right-sided stroke also can cause a lack of awareness of the weak side of the body, and this can make rehabilitation more difficult. 

  • How long does it take to recover from a right-sided stroke?

    It depends on many factors. It can take longer to recover from a large stroke, especially if you have had other strokes before or if you have health problems, such as severe heart or lung disease. 

  • What causes a right stroke?

    This type of stroke can be caused by blockage of blood flow or from a bleeding blood vessel. Risk factors include high blood pressure, heart disease, smoking, uncontrolled diabetes, and high cholesterol. 

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ishii D, Ishibashi K, Yuine H, Takeda K, Yamamoto S, Kaku Y, Yozu A, Kohno Y. Contralateral and ipsilateral interactions in the somatosensory pathway in healthy humans. Front Syst Neurosci. 2021;15:698758. doi:10.3389/fnsys.2021.698758

  2. National Institute of Health. Prosopagnosia.

  3. Gillespie DC, Cadden AP, Lees R, West RM, Broomfield NM. Prevalence of pseudobulbar affect following stroke: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2016;25(3):688-94. doi:10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2015.11.038

By Heidi Moawad, MD
Heidi Moawad is a neurologist and expert in the field of brain health and neurological disorders. Dr. Moawad regularly writes and edits health and career content for medical books and publications.