2 Your Health: How COVID-19 may impact stroke risk

2 Your Health

Courtesy: Majid Fotuhi
COVID-19 survivor in her late fifties developed confusion and had trouble speaking. MRI shows “significant damage” to memory and language centers of the brain: small strokes on the right side and encephalitis on the left.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – We’re learning more about how COVID-19 impacts the brain, and evidence suggests the infection may increase risk for suffering a stroke.

Cleveland Clinic’s Shazam Hussain, MD, wasn’t involved in the research, but says strokes caused by blood clots appear to be impacting a younger population.

“It’s not a classic situation of stroke,” he said. “We’re actually seeing young people who don’t have the traditional risk factors for stroke like high blood pressure, or other problems.

These are young, healthy people, who are coming in with big, big strokes.”

Regardless of age or COVID-19, Dr. Hussain said stroke symptoms should never be ignored.

He reminds people to use the acronym ‘BE FAST’ to recognize stroke symptoms. ‘B’ stands for trouble with balance. ‘E’ is eyes and vision problems. ‘F’ is for droopiness in the face. ‘A’ is for arm or leg weakness. ‘S’ stands for trouble with speech. ‘T’ is time – to remind us that time is of the essence and to call 911 quickly.

During a stroke, Dr. Hussain said two million neurons are lost every minute– so time to treatment matters.

“We do have very effective therapies for stroke, but they are time limited,” said Dr. Hussain.

“There’s a clot buster medication called TPA, which we can give within four and a half hours. There are procedures that we can do to remove clots out of blood vessels, but we really want to be doing that within the first 6 -24 hours after a stroke starts. The longer that it takes to get treatment, potentially the worse someone can do.”

Dr. Hussain said some people are afraid to come to the emergency room because of COVID-19.

However, he said that hospitals are taking extra precautions to keep all patients safe.

If someone has stroke symptoms – do not delay care, seek medical attention immediately.

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