Even during the early days of the pandemic, doctors noted an increase in strokes among patients who had been diagnosed with COVID-19. And in many cases, COVID-related strokes occurred in individuals under age 50 who otherwise had a fairly mild reaction to the virus.
Board-certified neurologist Dr. Andrew Lerman, at Gables Neurology in Miami, Florida, offers the most innovative and effective therapies available for a wide variety of neurological disorders that affect the adult population.
Committed to providing his community with reliable information regarding COVID-19, Dr. Lerman discusses what is known about COVID-19 and your neurological health, including stroke risk and the difficulties associated with long-haul or long COVID syndrome.
Understanding COVID-19 and stroke
Although COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory virus, continuing research shows that it also has significant effects on your vascular health (that which affects your blood vessels) and your risk of stroke.
SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is a complex virus that attaches to a specific molecule (receptor) that’s most prevalent in lung cells. However, these receptors are also found in cells that occur within the lining of blood vessels throughout your body.
As it works its way through your bloodstream, the infection and resulting inflammation can cause the walls of your arteries, veins, and capillaries to weaken and leak. This can result in significant damage to the surrounding tissue, and may be the underlying trigger for some of the neurological symptoms related to the virus.
COVID-19 can also cause blood cells to clump together and form clots that restrict blood flow through your arteries. This type of restriction can occur in the arteries carrying oxygenated blood to your brain and result in an acute (sudden) ischemic stroke (AIS).
Whether related to COVID-19 or not, symptoms of stroke typically occur suddenly and may include:
- Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg (typically on one side)
- Confusion and difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying
- Decreased vision in one or both eyes
- Severe headache
- Trouble walking or difficulty with balance and coordination
Strokes related to COVID-19 may occur during hospitalization due to severe illness, but have also been noted in individuals who may have had only mild symptoms or are recovering from their initial illness.
A stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency requiring immediate care. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, call 911. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve your odds of surviving a stroke and also help you overcome its effects on your neurological function.
What is long-haul COVID syndrome?
The American Medical Association (AMA) notes that “long COVID” may affect as many as 80% of individuals who experienced even asymptomatic COVID. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may last for weeks to months after the initial infection.
Long-haul COVID neurological symptoms may include:
- Persistent loss of smell or taste
- Cognitive dysfunction (brain fog)
- Numbness and tingling in arms, hands, legs, or feet
- Muscle aches and pains (myalgia)
- Chronic fatigue
- Debilitating headaches
For long-haul COVID treatment, Dr. Lerman may recommend various medications, physical therapy, and other strategies designed to help reduce your symptoms and speed your recovery.
For more information regarding long COVID, stroke rehab, or any of the other services we offer, schedule a consultation with Dr. Lerman today at Gables Neurology by calling our office or requesting an appointment online.