There are recent studies that suggest that COVID-19 increases the risk of stroke in adults — long before they should have ever been at the risk for such a condition.
According to Euro News, there are at least two separate studies that have shown a positive correlation between increased stroke risk and COVID-19 for young people. The Washington Post has also reported on the subject. Informing its readers that there are young and middle-aged people, around their 30s and 40s, that are barely sick with COVID-19 that are dying because of a sudden and unexpected stroke.
COVID-19 Positive Patients Suffer Stroke
Washington Post’s article further details how this correlation was discovered, as described by a case from Thomas Oxley — a Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital neurologist.
According to Mr. Oxley’s report on this one case, he had been called into work to treat an emergency stroke patient, age 44, tested positive for COVID-19 with an unremarkable patient history, and no history of taking any medications for chronic conditions.
Mr. Oxley’s patient had been in isolation, much like most people in Manhattan at the time, when he was hit with classic stroke symptoms. Specifically, the patient reported that he had trouble speaking and experienced numbness on one side of the body that prevented him from moving some of his limbs.
A scan performed on the patient showed that there was in fact a blockage on the left side of his head. This was enough for a complete stroke diagnosis. This meant that the patient was thusly confirmed to be one of the few odd cases of young COVID-19 positive patients suffering from a severe version of a stroke that usually occurred only in patients age 74 or older.
That wasn’t the only thing odd about the situation, however. Mr. Oxley goes on to explain, that after he had surgically removed the clot that had caused the stroke, he observed an unnatural occurrence that he had never seen before. That is, as he removed the clot once and for all, he saw that new clots were forming around it in real-time.
COVID-19 and Large Vessel Occlusions (LVOs)
To understand why things are happening as they are, let’s first take a look at what is understood thus far. For example, analysis of the data collected has shown that the patients who suffered from a stroke as a result of COVID-19 suffered from Large Vessel Occlusions (LVOs), which, as mentioned, is a severe type of stroke that is usually only seen in much older patients.
The unfortunate fact about LVOs is that they are a type of ischemic stroke that affects the major arteries of the brain. If left untreated, such blockages can cause extreme damage to the patient’s movements, speech, and even, their decision-making capabilities.
Treatment for these LVOs requires a trained neuro specialist that can provide Endovascular Therapy (EVT). This leads us to an even more unfortunate fact as, according to EMS1, only 10% of patients with AIS are eligible for EVT. And even patients that are eligible have a difficult time getting the treatment that they need as extreme urgency is required.
This makes the condition not only extremely dangerous but also difficult to treat. This is why researchers, despite the current limitations imposed by the quarantine laws, are looking into why COVID-19 is causing these unexpected strokes.
So, now that we’ve gone over all the facts available as of right now, let’s talk about the theories…
How Does the Stroke Occur in COVID-19 Patients?
COVID-19 has not made it easy to determine the cause of these severe strokes. However, there are already several researchers on the case.
A lot of these researchers suspect the increased risk of stroke is caused by blood-clotting complications that result in multiple clots being formed all over the patient’s bodies — or so is reported by the Washington Post in another article.
Even if the clots were formed elsewhere in the body (not the brain), ones that form along the interior of arteries can travel there through the bloodstream and find its way towards there or, even, the lungs and the heart (which researchers also suspect may be the reason of increased risk of pulmonary embolism or heart attacks in COVID-19 patients.)
As for what causes these ‘blood-clotting complications,’ neurologist and critical care doctor, Sherry H-Y Chou, points to either the novel coronavirus causing direct damage to the blood or a ‘friendly-fire’ issue that’s caused by the patient’s own immune system. Ms. Chou is hoping to answer the question once and for all as one of the researchers looking into this subject. Until then, all we can do is wait, and practice extreme caution.
Just remember not to panic – stay alert and informed, but not panicked. Also, if you want to learn more about how you can tell whether you or someone you know has suffered a stroke (which is important for getting treatment as soon as possible), here’s our article on identifying ‘Signs of a Stroke.’