May is Stroke Awareness Month. While awareness of stroke symptoms is especially important among the elderly, COVID-19 is creating two new phenomena to consider.
First, COVID-19 has been found to cause stroke in much younger people, even those who have mild symptoms and may not even be aware they are positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus. People as young as 30 have been experiencing stroke as a result of COVID-19. According to Dr. Johanna T. Fifi at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, “We’re hypothesizing that the virus is having an effect on the lining of the blood vessels all through the body – and that is what is leading to the clots.”
More specifically, Dr. Theresa Capriotti, DO, MSN, RN, at Villanova University notes, “The coronavirus has been shown to cause the development of microthrombi [small clots]. These clots can travel to the lung and obstruct blood flow to the lung, which is called pulmonary embolism, or travel to brain circulation and cause an ischemic stroke.” The important signs to look out for include:
- Facial changes, especially drooping of one side
- Face numbness – if the person cannot smile, it may be a sign of stroke
- Arm weakness or numbness – if a person raises both arms but one drifts downward, this may be a sign of stroke
- Slurred speech – if a person cannot repeat a simple phrase, it’s time to be concerned
Note that women often experience symptoms not traditionally associated with stroke:
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
- Trouble seeing from one or both eyes
- Difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Treating stroke is extremely TIME SENSITIVE – how quickly someone can get to the hospital to start treatment is the most important factor in a successful recovery. Call 9-1-1 if any of the signs noted above are indicated. The EMS staff in the ambulance can begin treatment immediately, which is why calling 9-1-1 is usually more beneficial than driving the person to the emergency room.
This brings us to the second phenomenon related to stroke and COVID-19: Many people are reluctant to go to the hospital right now, for any reason. While this is understandable, medical professionals stress that the risk of delayed treatment for stroke is far worse than the possibility of infection. Hospital protocols for preventing coronavirus transmission are constantly improving – someone experiencing a stroke needs to seek treatment immediately.
Stroke recovery can also be challenging. Often this occurs in a rehabilitation facility, but even when a stroke patient comes home, it may take several weeks more to sufficiently recover. Assisting Hands Home Care serving Cincinnati professional caregivers assist with personal care (showering, dressing, shaving, etc.), ambulation, meal preparation, and light housekeeping. Our team approach to care means nurse care managers will initiate your plan and are available to caregivers for advice, 24/7. We also have strong coronavirus protocols in place and are providing PPE to our caregivers.