COVID-19 is a deadly new disease that has hatched from a new strain of virus, so it is constantly behaving in new and unpredictable ways. Leading health experts across the world have constantly reassured the general public that most people will experience only mild symptoms or none at all. They have also sorted people into at-risk categories, which inevitably provides comfort if you do not fall into one.
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Occasionally, however, COVID-19 reasserts itself, letting the world know that it will not be predictable.
This happened once again this week, with doctors reporting that the virus appears to be causing sudden strokes in adults in their 30s and 40s who are not otherwise terribly ill.
There is emerging evidence that COVID-19 causes blood clots.
Between 20 and 40 percent of COVID-19 patients at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia have developed blood clots, for example.
Blood clots are the primary cause of strokes so the complication is not entirely surprising.
Dr. Thomas Oxley, a neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, and colleagues provided specific details of five people they treated.
All were under the age of 50, and all had either mild symptoms of Covid-19 infection or no symptoms at all.
“The virus seems to be causing increased clotting in the large arteries, leading to severe stroke,” Oxley told CNN.
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He continued: “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.
“All tested positive. Two of them delayed calling an ambulance.”
While the complication is not altogether surprising, the age of the COVID-19 patients does raise a number of questions.
“For comparison, our service, over the previous 12 months, has treated on average 0.73 patients every two weeks under the age of 50 years with large vessel stroke,” the team wrote in a letter to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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At least one patient has died, and others are in rehabilitation facilities, intensive care or in the stroke unit.
Only one went home but will require intense care, Oxley said.
In light of the findings, Oxley and his team are urging people to call the emergency services if they detect any symptoms associated with stroke.
“Up until now, people have been advised to only call for an ambulance with shortness of breath or high fever,” he wrote.
What are the symptoms of stroke?
The signs and symptoms of a stroke vary from person to person, but usually begin suddenly.
“As different parts of your brain control different parts of your body, your symptoms will depend on the part of your brain affected and the extent of the damage,” explains the NHS.
The main stroke symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST:
- Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.
- Arms – the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
- Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.
- Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.
Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Complete paralysis of one side of the body
- Sudden loss or blurring of vision
- Difficulty understanding what others are saying
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- A sudden and very severe headache resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
- Loss of consciousness.
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