Subarachnoid haemorrhage - Recovery 

Recovering from subarachnoid haemorrhage 

The time it will take you to recover from a subarachnoid haemorrhage will depend on it's severity.

The location of the haemorrhage will also affect whether you have any associated problems, such as loss of feeling in your arms or legs, or problems understanding speech (known as aphasia).

Recovery can be a frustrating process. You may make a lot of progress and then suffer setbacks  you will have good days and bad days.

Feelings of anger, resentment and sadness are common. Talking to other people with similar conditions via support groups can provide help and reassurance. An assessment from a clinical psychologist can also be helpful.

There are many specialists who may be involved in your recovery, including:

  • rehabilitation specialists  doctors specialising in recovery from a brain injury
  • physiotherapists  specialists in certain techniques, such as exercises and massage, that can help with movement problems
  • speech and language therapists  a specialist who can recognise and help treat communication problems
  • occupational therapists  a specialist who can identify problems you may have in everyday life, such as getting dressed, and can help you work out practical solutions

Common problems

Many of the common after-effects of a subarachnoid haemorrhage, and some tips to help you deal with them, are outlined below.

Extreme tiredness

During the first few months after a subarachnoid haemorrhage, it is normal to feel extremely tired (known as fatigue). Even simple tasks, such as going to the shops, can leave you feeling exhausted.

Taking regular short breaks of about 20 to 30 minutes in a relaxing environment, ideally at least three times a day, can help.

Problems sleeping

After having a subarachnoid haemorrhage, many people find they have problems getting to sleep (known as insomnia) or they can only sleep for short periods.

Having a set daily routine, where you get up and go to bed at the same time each day, can also help. You should also set time aside for relaxation breaks. If you go back to work, you could talk to your employer about having extra time for breaks.

For more advice, read 10 tips to beat insomnia.

Headaches

Headaches are common after a subarachnoid haemorrhage, but they tend to ease over time. They are not painful as when you had your haemorrhage, and you should be able to control them with over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol.

Drinking plenty of fluids, as well as avoiding alcohol and caffeine, can also reduce the severity and frequency of these headaches.

Unusual sensations

After having a subarachnoid haemorrhage, some people experience strange or unusual sensations in their brain. These can be difficult to describe, but some people have said that they feel "tickly" or like somebody is pouring water across their brain.

Nobody is sure exactly why these strange sensations occur, but they are common and usually pass over time.

Loss of feeling or movement

Following a subarachnoid haemorrhage, some people experience a loss of movement and feeling in their arms or legs. This can range from a slight weakness to a complete loss of power.

You may also have problems distinguishing between hot and cold, so be careful when taking a bath or shower.

A training and exercise plan carried out under the supervision of a physiotherapist can help restore feeling and movement to affected limbs.

Changes in senses

Many people experience changes to their sense of smell and taste after they have had a subarachnoid haemorrhage. The senses can be heightened or reduced.

You may find that your favourite food now tastes disgusting, while something you hated now tastes delicious. However, these changes in the senses are normally temporary and will resolve as the swelling on your brain goes down.

Vision

Following a brain injury, problems with your vision – such as blurring, blind spots, black spots and double vision  are common.

Your vision will be tested before you leave hospital and, if necessary, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist (a doctor who specialises in the care of the eye) for further tests and treatment. In most cases, vision problems improve gradually over a few months.

Caring for someone who has had a brain haemorrhage

If you are caring for someone recovering from a subarachnoid haemorrhage, you may find it a challenging prospect. They can often have complex needs and engage in challenging and sometimes upsetting behaviour.

You may find it useful to visit the carer and support section of this website, which contains a range of useful information, such as a practical guide to caring, money and legal advice and looking after your own wellbeing.

Support groups

There are a number of support groups that can offer information and advice for people who have had a brain haemorrhage, and their carers.

You can contact the Stroke Association helpline on 0303 3033 100 (9am to 5pm on weekdays) or you can email info@stroke.org.uk.

You can contact Headway, the brain injury association, on 0808 800 2244 (9am to 5pm on weekdays) or email you can email helpline@headway.org.uk.


Page last reviewed: 12/02/2014

Next review due: 12/02/2016

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