Although COVID-19 is typically thought of as a respiratory infection, it can also affect other areas of the body. One of the more surprising findings is that it can cause blood clots that may lead to severe stroke. Perhaps most concerning is that these strokes are happening in patients of all ages – even those who experience milder COVID-19 symptoms.
How are stroke and COVID-19 connected?
COVID is a relatively new disease, so we’re still learning about the connection between the virus and strokes. Some experts suspect that the virus has an effect on blood vessel lining, potentially leading to the development of clots, which can travel to the brain, leading to an ischemic stroke. Others believe severe inflammation from a COVID-19 infection can lead to fatty plaque build-up, which can cause blood vessels to rupture.
While the definitive link between COVID and stroke has yet to be discovered, we do know that it’s important to talk to patients who are already at a higher risk of stroke—as a result of other factors like age, race, weight, family history or other health conditions—about the importance of managing their COVID-19 risk. This can include recommending tactics like getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in public spaces, limiting exposure to unvaccinated people, social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene.
Seek emergency medical attention for stroke warning signs
If you experience stroke warning signs, don’t put off seeking emergency medical attention – even if you have COVID-19. Every second counts and faster treatment can lead to better long-term outcomes. Stroke warning signs include sudden numbness or weakness, confusion, difficulty speaking, vision issues, and loss of balance or coordination. Read Get to Know Stroke Warning Signs & Risk Factors to learn more about identifying symptoms.
During the pandemic, many people are hesitant to visit the hospital out of fear of coming in contact with COVID-19. But stroke is a true medical emergency and requires immediate attention. Health systems, such as Main Line Health, have taken precautions to keep all patients safe during their time at the hospitals. Patients with COVID-19 are separated from other patients, all healthcare workers and staff wear PPE and there are more cleanings and other sanitary measures put in place.
Telemedicine can help reduce risk for stroke
For people who are not currently experiencing symptoms, but wish to learn how to lower their risk for stroke, telemedicine is an option. At Main Line Health, people can connect with a provider via phone or video for a preventive care diagnosis and treatment plan. This is especially helpful for patients who need help managing chronic conditions, including those that can increase risk for stroke. To make an appointment for a virtual visit with a Main Line Health provider, visit our website.
Learn more about stroke care at Main Line Health. Call 866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or visit our website.