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COVID-19: Coronavirus Causing Strokes In Young & Middle-aged People With Mild Symptoms

As of today, there are 3,230,433 coronavirus cases with 228,394 deaths. On a hopeful note, 1,007,136 have recovered. As the coronavirus pandemic takes an ever-larger toll across the world, extensive researches and surveys have been exploring who is at greatest risk of infection, serious illness, and death, detailed information, and brought forth the understanding that young people are not invincible to the virus [1].

This is because, during the initial phase of the coronavirus pandemic, a lack of awareness caused a streak of careless action by young people around the globe where they discarded the warnings of CDC and took part in public functions [2].

And most recent reports point out that young people and middle-aged people, who have been affected by the coronavirus are suffering from strokes [3].


The Coronavirus Can Affect The Blood Vessels - Causing Strokes

It has been known that the Sars-CoV-2 virus attacks the lungs resulting in severe inflammation, reducing their ability to transfer oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream via the red blood cells [4]. Apart from the lungs, the virus attacks the kidney, heart and the brain too.

Studies have pointed out that, out of all these, the most severe complication caused by the coronavirus is lack of oxygen, secondary inflammation and coagulation of the blood vessels, leading to the formation of blood clots, or in some cases, excessive bleeding [5].

It is to be noted that the coronavirus specifically attacks the larger blood vessels such as the middle cerebral artery (MCA) or anterior cerebral artery (ACA), which are responsible for movement, thinking, and breathing [6]. When the virus causes blood clotting and blocks the larger blood vessels, it can lead to permanent brain damage.

Initially, the effect of the coronavirus on causing strokes was limited as it was only reported in seriously ill and elderly patients [7]. However, recent reports notify that the virus does in fact affect the large blood vessels linked to the brain, thereby resulting in stroke[8].


What Are Strokes And How Is It Linked To COVID-19?

A stroke develops when there is an unexpected and sudden interruption in the blood supply. It can develop as a result of heart problems, clogged arteries due to cholesterol and substance abuse [9]. Strokes can vary in intensity, where mini-strokes often do no cause permanent damage and can resolve on their own within 24 hours, severe ones can result in death [10].

Researchers point out that the coronavirus patients who suffered from strokes are experiencing the deadliest type of stroke, known as large vessel occlusions (LVOs) where it directly affects the brain functions [10].

In people with coronavirus, strokes can develop as a direct consequence of blood clots - which once developed in the vessels can migrate to the lungs, causing a blockage called a pulmonary embolism, one of the major causes of death in COVID-19 patients [11].

When a blood clot occurs above the chest area, it can result in strokes, which health experts assume could be the result of an immune overreaction called a cytokine storm [12]. Some also point out that it could be due to the unique shape of the Sars-CoV-2, which allows it to latch onto blood vessels and damaging them [13].


Strokes Reported In Young And Middle-aged People With Minor Symptoms

The initial reports of strokes due to COVID-19 were from Wuhan, China, where around 5 per cent of the patients who were hospitalized with the coronavirus suffered a stroke, however, at that time the youngest reported patient was 55 [14].

The researchers also pointed out that, a large scale of attention was on the fever and shortness of breath, while there are a lot of parts of the body that is affected by the virus. Another study pointed out that nearly a third of COVID-patients had suffered from complications due to blood clotting [15].

Every reported case of strokes due to COVID-19 were reported in people all under the age of 50, where most of then either had mild or no symptoms. "It appears that the underlying cause of stroke in young patients with coronavirus is cerebral emboli," said one of the researchers. He continued, "Many of the patients infected with coronavirus are hypercoagulable and this extra propensity for forming blood clots is leading to a higher incidence of strokes in coronavirus patients including younger patients" [16].


On A Final Note…

Initially believed to only affect the respiratory system, the coronavirus has been proven to affect nearly every major organ system in the body. It is important to get immediate medical attention if you are facing symptoms including weakness, difficulty speaking, dizziness or numbness - which can indicate a stroke developing due to blood clots caused by the coronavirus.

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