Can COVID-19 Cause a Stroke?

The short answer from a stroke expert
illustration of covid-19 and a brain

Q: Can the coronavirus (COVID-19) cause a stroke?

A: With what seems like an ever-growing list of problems COVID-19 can cause, you might also wonder if the coronavirus can cause a stroke.

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While researchers are still studying exactly how COVID-19 affects the brain, the evidence does suggest it could increase stroke risk. But these strokes caused by blood clots appear to be impacting younger people.

It’s not a classic situation of stroke. We’re actually seeing young people who don’t have the traditional risk factors for stroke like high blood pressure, or other problems. These are young, healthy people, who are coming in with big, big strokes.

No matter your age or if you have COVID or not, you should never ignore stroke symptoms. That’s because while there are very effective therapies for stroke, they are time-limited.

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There’s a clot-buster medication called TPA, which we can give within four and a half hours. There are also procedures that we can do to remove clots out of blood vessels. But we really want to be doing that within the first six to 24 hours after a stroke starts. The longer that it takes to get treatment, potentially the worse someone can do.

And you shouldn’t be afraid to go to the emergency room because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals are taking extra precautions to keep all patients safe.

So if you or someone you know is having stroke symptoms – don’t delay care. Seek medical attention immediately.

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— Stroke expert Shazam Hussain, MD

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