Paralytic stroke is generally viewed as a condition affecting the elderly, but the fact remains that it can also occur in infants, children, young adults, and even in a fetus before birth and can be life threatening in such cases as well.
But owing to limited awareness of its occurrence, it is typically undetected or ignored by parents. Some of the symptoms are hard to catch too.
Stroke can be classified into two types:
Symptoms of stroke in younger children and infants are quite different from those that occur in adults.
Typical symptoms of stroke in children are seizures of one side or arm. Adults having a stroke rarely present themselves with seizures. Therefore children with episodes of epilepsy should be subjected to tests to check for stroke or other brain damaging issues.
Another symptom is early handedness or the preference for one hand either, left or right, much early in their life. Handedness normally occurs around one year after birth, and parents typically misconceive early handedness as quicker growth.
Another symptom is weakness on one side of the body. This is not easily diagnosed as the infant is only beginning to walk or stand on their own.
Left undetected or untreated, stroke can lead to permanent neurological conditions that may affect motion, vision, hearing and other sensory and cognitive elements as controlled by the brain, depending on which part of the brain is affected by the stroke. Poor attention spans, epilepsy, behavioral problems, and poor quality of life are other possible outcomes.
Fetal MRIs are very useful to identify the underlying causes for stroke such as meningitis ( infectrion of the covering of the brain) , sepsis (Infection), or birth defects. In case, there is a history of blood clotting issues or congenital heart disease or sickle cell syndrome or the mother suffers from preeclampsia, an MRI, and if and when necessary an MRV(Magnetic Resonance Venogram) or MRA (Magnetic Resonance Arteriogram) may be advised by the physician or pediatrician to understand the real cause of the problem.
Treatment of infant stroke is based on the underlying causes. If the stroke is ischemic in nature, anticoagulants (blood thinners) would help ease the blood flow, and potentially help treat the clots. However, if there is a hemorrhage, then use of blood thinners would be counter-productive and cause more damage. It is therefore critical that complete and accurate diagnosis is made to understand the type of stroke and decide the course of treatment based on the same.
Once the stroke occurs and has caused residual damage, rehabilitation including Physiotherapy, Occupational therapy if hand is involved and Speech therapy if speech is involved are essential. Ayurvedic treatment is very effective along with these procedures in helping these children recover from the problems and improve their quality of life.