Medics in New York City have reported that people in their 30s and 40s who were previously not deemed at-risk during the coronavirus pandemic may in fact be vulnerable to sudden strokes. COVID-19 has recently been thought to cause increased blood clotting, which would raise an individual’s risk of having a stroke.
A number of patients at Mount Sinai have been diagnosed as having suffered serious strokes, despite being under the age of 50 with no underlying health conditions.
“The virus seems to be causing increased clotting in the large arteries, leading to severe stroke,” neurosurgeon Dr. Thomas Oxley told CNN. “Our report shows a seven-fold increase in incidence of sudden stroke in young patients during the past two weeks. Most of these patients have no past medical history and were at home with either mild symptoms (or in two cases, no symptoms) of COVID.”
An ischemic stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is obstructed, causing brain cells to die. It is highly uncommon for people in their 30s and 40s to have serious strokes; in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, Oxley’s team wrote that over the last 12-month period, they have treated “on average 0.73 patients every 2 weeks under the age of 50 years with large vessel stroke.” That is under 2 patients per month.
Doctors also reported that some patients delayed calling 911, presumably as they didn’t make a connection between their stroke symptoms and coronavirus, and were reluctant to overload an already-stretched healthcare system. However, in the case of a stroke, rapid treatment is absolutely essential; the most effective treatments must be performed ideally in a window of 6 hours.
The most common symptoms of a stroke are the face drooping on one side, losing the ability to move your arms, and slurred speech. A popular way to remember these symptoms is FAST: Face, Arm, Speech, and Time, as in, time to call an ambulance.
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