One in two people experience loss of body sensations after stroke. This may include difficulty with discriminating between objects when touching them or knowing where your arm and hand are in space. Sensory loss may also affect your ability to learn new movements, manipulate objects, and perform daily activities such as personal care.
One compounding difficulty associated with sensory loss is that it is often not fully appreciated by family members, carers, and health professionals. Loss of the sense of touch is a somewhat ‘hidden’ problem. In contrast to other problems such as movement paralysis, loss of the ability to feel things is not observed directly. As one stroke survivor says, “If you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist”. Thus it may be missed in therapy and family members may assume that the person can easily return to everyday tasks such as cooking – but this is not the case.
People have described sensory loss after stroke as below:
‘After my stroke my hand felt like it was blind. Everyday tasks were very clumsy and required so much concentration.’
‘My right side cannot discriminate rough, smooth, rigid or malleable, sharp or blunt, heavy or light etc. It cannot tell whether that which touches it is a hand or a tennis racket’
‘I may look alright but I feel all left … and half lost.’
‘The dullness of sensation and absence of knowledge of my body’s right-sided perimeters … make it frustratingly difficult to control or feel relaxed about any right-sided movement’.
‘I’d been right-handed. Now I couldn’t do up my shirt or cut up my food as I couldn’t feel the knife in my hand. You don’t realize how much you take the feeling for granted until it’s gone.’