ST. LOUIS — Doctors and researchers are learning more every day about how the coronavirus affects us, and there's new evidence of a link between COVID-19 and strokes.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York treated five COVID-19 patients who had strokes.
"They were all very young, had no stroke risk factors, and their presenting feature for diagnosing COVID-19 was in fact a stroke. It's a very alarming report,” said Dr. Jin-Moo Lee, a neurologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and director of the Cerebrovascular Disease Section.
Dr. Lee said of the COVID-19 patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, some had less severe, temporary stroke-like symptoms that reversed themselves.
He said there’s enough evidence of an association between the virus and strokes, but doctors are still trying to figure out if the virus causes strokes.
“COVID-19 infection can lead to clotting disorders. So, those patients who are most severely affected by COVID-19 develop clotting in many of their organs, including in the kidneys, the lungs, the heart and the brain. And if the clotting develops in the brain, it results in a stroke,” Dr. Lee said.
But Dr. Lee said there’s an even more widespread problem happening.
During the pandemic, there's been a 30% to 40% decrease in stroke patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and he said that trend is occurring across the United States.
Dr. Lee said it doesn’t mean fewer people are having strokes, they’re just staying home – a dangerous decision.
"People are worried about coming to hospitals and getting infected with COVID-19,” he said, adding that without treatment, “you may be left with disability for the rest of your life.”
If you have facial drooping, arm weakness or slurred speech, Dr. Lee said go to the emergency room right away.
May is stroke awareness month.