10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor After A Stroke

Elyse Newland is an Occupational Therapist who loves her work but is frustrated with the state of U.S. healthcare. She works specifically with stroke survivors and continues to explore ways to route around the system to get survivors the resources they need. Elyse makes stroke information and treatment simple via her weekly blog post on her website and her weekly YouTube video. She also provides teletherapy for stroke survivors in TN, GA, NC, OR, and CA. You can find her at https://elysenewland.com/articles/. As a site affiliated with Strokefocus, we are authorized to repost Elyse Newland's blogs.

Sometimes it can be hard to know the right questions to ask your doctor after having a stroke, especially if you’re dealing with brain fog and neuro fatigue. Use this list as a guide or print it out and take it with you to your next doctor’s appointment!

A doctor sitting at her desk in front of a computer with glasses  and a pen on the desk in front of her.

  1. What caused my stroke? Was it high blood pressure or high cholesterol? Was it from something you had no control over, like a hole in your heart (e.g., PFO)? The more you understand, the more appropriate steps you can take to reduce your risk of a secondary stroke (whether lifestyle changes or medical treatment is needed).
  2. Where in my brain did my stroke happen? Understanding more about the mechanics of your stroke (ischemic vs. hemorrhagic) and where it occurred can explain a lot about the symptoms you’re experiencing and can provide some indicators of what to expect during recovery. For example, having a stroke in the occipital lobe may result in visual changes, while a stroke in the left parietal or temporal lobes can result in speech/language issues.
  3. What does recovery look like for my type of stroke? We know that every stroke survivor and their recovery journey looks different, but we can make some guided assumptions based on the cause, type, severity, and location of the stroke. Your doctor/neurologist may be able to give you more specifics on what recovery typically looks like.
  4. What resources are available to me? Resources might include in-home caregivers, home health therapy, outpatient therapy, counseling or mental health therapy, social workers, home meal delivery, house cleaners, or sitters for respite care. You often won’t be given this information unless you ask.
  5. Are there local or online support networks I can access? Having a community of folks who have been through something similar can be invaluable. It allows you to ask questions about others’ recoveries, adaptive equipment they use, strategies that have worked well, doctors they like, etc. It can also help you recognize that you’re not alone on your journey.
  6. What are each of my medications for, and what are the side effects? This is by far one of the most important questions you can ask. Sometimes you’re taking new medications after your stroke to reduce the likelihood of having another. You must understand why and how to take them to reduce your risk. It’s also important to understand the side effects of your medications if you start feeling dizzy, nauseous, etc., after taking them.
  7. When and how often should I follow up? Conversations happen so quickly with the doctor you may leave without making another appointment. But it’s imperative that you understand when you should come back for a follow-up appointment. Your doctor may want to monitor your lab work, vitals, etc., or just check-in to see how you’re doing.
  8. What can I do to reduce my risk of a secondary stroke? The underlying reason(s) you had the stroke in the first place will dictate what your doctor recommends concerning any lifestyle or medication changes. Reducing secondary stroke risk should always be a large part of the recovery process, and it’s helpful if your doctor is an active part of the process!
  9. When should I call if I’m concerned about my health? Fear of having another stroke is another very common issue that survivors deal with. Have an open conversation about what symptoms would warrant a call to your doctor and what symptoms are more or less expected.
  10. I’ve been depressed and anxious. Is that normal, and what should I do about it? I’ll go ahead and answer the first question. Yes! It’s unfortunately common to feel post-stroke anxiety and depression. It’s a traumatic event in your life and having a mental health disruption is a normal response. A doctor can help guide you through the best method of treatment, whether that’s a referral to counseling, trialing medication, or a combination of both.