COVID-19: What Are the Early Symptoms of a Stroke?

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Doctors are now saying that the COVID-19 coronavirus may be causing blood clots and sudden strokes in young adults. A few different studies recently released found that blood clotting is relatively frequent in severe coronavirus patients, and patients could be experiencing strokes as a result of it.

Dr. Jeffrey Laurence, a hematologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, told CNN in an interview that, “The number of clotting problems I’m seeing in the ICU, all related to COVID-19, is unprecedented. Blood clotting problems appear to be widespread in severe COVID.”

Dr. Thomas Oxley, a neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, said that, “The virus seems to be causing increased clotting in the large arteries, leading to severe stroke. Our report shows a seven-fold increase in incidence of sudden stroke in young patients during the past two weeks.”

He added, “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.” He said some of these young patients are delaying calling an ambulance because they know that hospitals are overwhelmed with coronavirus cases.

With this new information coming to light, a lot of people are wondering what the early signs of a stroke, especially as they may have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic.

The ‘FAST’ Method Is the Easiest Way to Remember What Stroke Symptoms to Look for

The easiest way to remember the symptoms of a stroke and what to look for is the “FAST” method. As the American Stroke Association explains, F is for face drooping, A is for arm weakness, S is for Speech Difficulty and T is Time to Call 911. It’s important to know that if someone shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 911 and get to a hospital right away.

The face drooping can be identified if one side of the face droops or is numb; an easy way to spot that is by asking the person to smile and seeing if the smile is lopsided or not. Arm weakness means that someone’s arm is numb or weak and can be identified by asking the person to lift both arms and seeing if one drifts down. Speech difficulty means the person is slurring their speech or hard to understand.

Other stroke symptoms are listed on the American Stroke Association’s website: sudden numbness, sudden confusion, sudden trouble seeing, sudden trouble walking and sudden severe headache.

It Is Uncommon for Young People to Have Strokes, Let Alone Severe Strokes, Doctors Say

Dr. Oxley also said that it’s uncommon for young people to have strokes, especially those in the large vessels in the brain. He said, “The average person who has a large vessel stroke is severely impaired. It means it a bigger clot. It includes one of the largest arteries in the brain.” It’s critical that stroke patients get treated immediately to avoid brain damage since brain cells will die when the blood flow is stopped due to a clot.

Oxley added that people, especially younger people, should be extra vigilant in monitoring themselves for symptoms of the coronavirus. “Up until now, people have been advised to only call for an ambulance with shortness of breath or high fever,” he added, but if they have any evidence of a stroke, he says to call 911 immediately.

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