Two years after the spring 2020 lockdown, the first results are available from a study funded by the Stroke Association and other partners into the links between Covid-19 and stroke.
Research led by Dr William Whiteley and the British Heart Foundation Data Science Centre aimed to find out if Covid-19 increases the risk of stroke, and whether having the Covid-19 vaccine puts people at a higher risk of stroke.
Since March 2021, they've examined the electronic health records of every person in England who has either had a recorded Covid-19 vaccine or Covid-19 infection - over 46 million people.
Their study shows that there is an increased risk of stroke after catching Covid-19. The risk is highest in the first few weeks following infection, but there is still a small increase in risk up to a year after catching the virus.
The study also shows that people are less likely to have a stroke after having the Covid-19 vaccine than before vaccination, particularly people who have already had a stroke.
This research is essential in helping to improve care and outcomes for people with Covid-19 and stroke, as well as supporting research into stroke and its causes as a whole.
Baz Singh from Solihull understands this better than most. In October 2020, Baz, 48, had a stroke that doctors said was a result of contracting Covid-19. After spending three weeks in hospital with the virus, he started having headaches and problems with his vision. Scans revealed that he'd had a stroke after a blood vessel had burst at the back of his head.
'Doctors said that I had no other markers or risk of stroke,' says Baz. 'The nurses and consultants on the stroke ward were fantastic. I'm so grateful for the support I received both at the time and during my recovery.
'Research is important. I wouldn't be alive without it. Without pioneering techniques there will be a lot more people with stroke and more deaths - especially with Covid-19, which isn't going away any time soon.'
Dr Whiteley agrees. 'Covid-19 may have caused thousands of extra strokes in 2020,' he says. 'Vaccination protects you against Covid-19, and the risk of stroke and other severe complications after infection.'
Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the spring 2022 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.