How Does Stroke Affect the Senses?

Misskmonroe asked...

My mother suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in Nov 2012. It was mainly in a central location. She is unable to taste anything sweet and she said it actually seems to taste like metal. Is this normal and how long does it usually take the brain to repair?

Expert Answer

Laura Juel is an occupational therapist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. She works in the Outpatient Occupational Therapy Program and the Duke Driving Program for older drivers.

Strokes can be caused by hemorrhages or blood clots. With either type of stroke, blood supply to brain tissue may be interrupted which can then affect a persons ability to move, speak, and think. Other side effects that are common but may not get as much press is when there is damage to the nerves that supply the senses; smell, taste, vision, hearing, balance. A stroke may partially or fully damage these nerves impacting the function that they perform. Sometimes, patients will report to me a 'hypersensitivity' during the early acute phases. Sensations that may normal to others, may be experienced as too loud or not having a bad taste. Only time will tell the extent of recovery of a persons nervous system function, for some they may experience recovery within a few weeks. For others, it can take years. I would recommend that you have your mother focus on foods that she can taste and enjoys. Introduce sweet foods only as she can tolerate them. Experiment with mildly sweet vs. foods with stronger sweet flavors to see if she is able to detect flavors that are acceptable to her. The brain needs time to heal, and although playing the waiting game is not easy, try focusing on the positive attributes of foods.