Does COVID-19 increase your risk of stroke?
A connection between COVID-19 and strokes has hit the headlines, but does the virus increase your risk of stroke?
Quill Turk, DO, Southeastern Neurosurgical and Spine Institute, said, “Observations from the hardest hit areas like New York and Philadelphia have described an increase in stroke occurrence in COVID-19 infected patients. Notably, these tended to be larger, more devastating strokes that have tended to occur in younger and healthier patients than are typically affected by stroke.”
What is the connection between COVID-19 and stroke?
Dr. Turk said the current thinking is that the virus creates an inflammatory state that leads to increased blood clotting which can result in vascular blockages to any part of the body. “This can range from forming blood clots in the leg veins that can travel to the lungs and result in pulmonary embolus to forming in the arteries and resulting in heart attack or stroke,” he said.
In addition, the number of patients presenting for treatment of symptoms related to stroke has declined – likely, because of fear of exposure to coronavirus. “The end result is a significant number of people with devastating strokes that could be treated but are not promptly calling for help when they could potentially be saved,” Dr. Turk said.
Know the symptoms of stroke
Dr. Turk said it’s important to know the symptoms and act quickly. “If a person experiences stroke symptoms, they can often have a good outcome and return to a functional lifestyle if the symptoms are recognized and treated in a timely fashion.”
The best way to remember the symptoms is using the term BE FAST, which stands for:
- B – Balance off/dizzy
- E – Eyes blurred
- F – Face drooping
- A – Arm weakness
- S – Speech difficulty
- T – Time to call 911
“For the most devastating stroke, those related to a blockage of one of the main blood vessels to the brain, there is good evidence that good outcomes can be seen in around half of those that are treated within 24 hours of symptom onset,” Dr. Turk said.
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