Updated: Feb 8
There is evidence that individuals recovering from COVID19 infection are at higher risk of stroke. A stroke will occur whenever blood supply to the brain tissues is disrupted either by blockage of an artery or rupturing of an artery within the brain. Depending on the areas of the brain affected, the symptoms of stroke may vary. Typical symptoms include sudden weakness or numbness affecting one side of the human body, difficulty in speaking, loss of vision, and loss of bodily balance.
How COVID infection increases the risk of stroke in an individual?
Individuals who have SARS-CoV-2 may develop abnormal blood clotting as an inflammatory response to the virus. This increases the risk of blood clot formation. If a blood clot blocks an artery to the brain, it causes a stroke. Blockage in the flow of blood may result in various complications that include:
Cardiac arrest: This usually occurs whenever any clot of blood blocks the blood flow to the heart.
Stroke: Stroke occurs whenever clotted blood causes blockage of blood flow to the brain tissues.
Transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke: This will take place whenever there is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain cells.
Critical ischemia of limb: This condition will occur whenever any clot causes blocking of vascular supply to a limb.
Pulmonary embolism: This condition occurs whenever any clot causes blocking of blood flow to the lungs.
What are the symptoms of a stroke?
As per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention//CDC, the major signs along with symptoms of stroke which are of sudden onset are:
Numbness and/or weakness in the face, arms, or leg most specifically on one half of the human body.
Presence of confusion, difficulty in speech, or understanding of speech pattern.
Difficulty in visualizing from either one or both of the eyes accompanied with dizziness, loss in balance, or coordination between different parts of the body.
Severe onset of headache.
One must use the acronym “F.A.S.T." to identify the symptoms of stroke so that it becomes easy for any individual to call emergency health services if someone needs them.
F – Facial drooping: One must identify if one half of the face is undergoing drooping or whether there is numbness? One can check this by asking an individual to smile.
A – Arm weakening: Is any particular arm feeling weakness or numbness? One must instruct the affected person to together raise both of his or her arms. One must look for any downwards drifting movement of any single arm.
S – Speech impairment: For this, one must check for any slurring in speech. One must-see if a person is unable to speak or is it difficult to understand what they are speaking? A simple test is to enquire a particular individual for repeating any simplified form of the sentence, for example, "The sea is vast.” If the person is unable to repeat the words in the sentence, then one must get alert for an episode of stroke.
T – Time for calling emergency services: If a person is showing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, one must immediately contact emergency health care services. Also, one must note symptoms, it becomes necessary to call an emergency physician or health care team that can provide appropriate treatment and patient management.
What are the risk factors for stroke?
Any person may suffer from a stroke regardless of age. Although chances of having stroke undergo an increase with few risk factors. While a few of the risk factors may be modified or can be managed, there are a few risk factors that cannot be changed.
Following are the risk factors that may be altered, treated, or can be managed medically:
High levels of blood pressure: Blood pressure measuring up to 140/90 mm Hg or higher may severely damage blood vessels that are responsible for supplying blood to brain tissues.
Cardiac disease: The disease of the heart is the second most frequent risk factor for stroke and is the main reason for deaths among stroke survivors.
Diabetic individuals: Subjects with diabetes are at a higher risk for stroke than non-diabetic people.
Smoking: Smoking doubles the risk of occurrence of a stroke.
Use of oral contraceptives
History of transient ischemic attacks or mini-strokes: This produces similar symptoms to that of stroke however, these symptoms are of shorter duration.
Higher counts of red blood cells: A greater increase in the count of red blood cells causes thickening of blood that allows clotting and further increases the risk of stroke.
High levels of serum cholesterol and lipids: Higher levels of serum cholesterol contribute to the thickening and/or hardening of arteries often termed atherosclerosis. This is the result of deposition of plaque that is comprised of deposition of fatty substances, cholesterol along with calcium. This causes a reduction in the amount of blood flow to brain tissues that results in stroke.
Less exercise and Obesity
Excessive consumption of alcohol
Use of narcotics: Intravenous abuse of drugs carries a higher risk of the development of stroke due to cerebral embolisms. Narcotic agents such as Cocaine have been closely associated with stroke, cardiac episodes, and various cardiovascular issues.
Abnormal cardiac rhythm: The presence of irregular heartbeats or atrial fibrillation is the most important as well as a manageable risk factor of stroke.
Structural abnormalities in the heart: Damaged valves of the heart or valvular heart disease may result in chronic heart damage that increases the risk of stroke.
Risk factors that cannot be altered are:
Race: Afro-Americans have a higher risk of death and disability of suffering from a stroke when compared to whites.
Gender: Stroke has been found to occur greatly among men when compared with women.
History of the previous stroke
Heredity/genetic background: The chances of stroke are higher in people with existing familial history of stroke.
Other risk factors are Regional differences in lifestyle, race, a habit of smoking and dietary habits, temperature, seasonal variation, and climatic changes, and Social/Economic factors.
How to treat stroke in patients recovering after COVID 19?
The rehabilitation process for stroke patients after COVID 19 infection may include speech, physical along occupational therapy. The use of speech therapy provides help to patients who face issues regarding speech. Physical therapy makes use of exercises for helping relearn bodily movements along with skills associated with coordination that may have been lost due to stroke. Occupational therapy helps in improving day-to-day activities, for example, eating, drinking, getting dressed, taking bath, etc.
Both the use of therapy along with medicines may assist against depression or similar mental health conditions that follow stroke.
If a person has suffered from a stroke, he is at a higher risk of another stroke. Thus, it is necessary to treat the underlying reasons for stroke such as cardiac disease, elevated blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, and diabetes by medicines or by changing one’s diet, exercising, or adopting a healthy lifestyle.
How Centric Healthcare Can Help?
By providing physicians, therapists, and managers who help in determining the type of treatment setting based on disability and prognosis, availability of skilled nurses for rehabilitation, by assisting in Out-patient rehabilitation. Get a free consultation today at Centric Healthcare.