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Don't Let COVID-19 Fear Keep You From Seeking Medical Care

The University of Kentucky Public Relations & Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Dr. Larry Goldstein, chairman of University of Kentucky’s Department of Neurology and the Co-Director of the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 18, 2020) — The fear of contracting COVID-19 is keeping many people at home who should be coming to the Emergency Department for life-threatening conditions. Emergency departments, however, have been reorganized to isolate patients with suspected or known COVID-19 to protect those who are not infected. Yet, in the face of the pandemic, hospitalizations for stroke have decreased dramatically all over the world, including in Kentucky. 

Avoiding or delaying seeking emergent help can have drastic consequences because effective stroke treatments are available, but need to be started soon after the symptoms begin.  It is important not to dismiss even transient symptoms because they are a warning that a major stroke may occur over the next hours or days.

There are emerging reports suggesting that COVID-19 infection, even among young adults and those with no COVID-19 symptoms, can increase the risk for a major stroke. There is now evidence that COVID-19 can affect the linings of blood vessels and the regulation of the body’s blood clotting system. These changes can lead to a clot that blocks an artery supplying the brain, which can cause irreversible damage if not quickly treated.

Regardless of your age, it is important to know the signs of stroke, and to call 911 immediately if you think you are having a stroke or if you see these signs in someone else. The acronym BE FAST can help remember some of the more common signs of stroke, and it helps remind you to act fast by calling 911 immediately.

BE FAST stands for a sudden onset of problems with Balance or leg weakness, problems with the Eyes such as visual loss or double vision, Facial droop, Arm weakness, Speech that is slurred or otherwise changed- Time – the need to call 911 immediately). It is also important to know which hospitals in the area are stroke certified. A hospital may be designated as an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital, a Primary Stroke Center, a Thrombectomy-Capable Stroke Center, or the most advanced certification of a Comprehensive Stroke Center. Each level of certification requires compliance with strict criteria to receive and maintain. Remember, if a stroke does occur, time is essential.  Do not ignore the symptoms – you or a loved one may be spared permanent disability by acting quickly.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.