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Early Strokes Leave 1 in 3 With Disabilities

Update Date: Feb 27, 2014 06:42 PM EST

A huge proportion of young adults who've suffered stroke need assistance and are unable to live independently, according to a new study.

While strokes in young adults are rare, researchers said that about 10 percent of strokes occur in people between the ages of 18 and 50.

"Even if patients seem relatively well recovered with respect to motor function, there may still be immense 'invisible' damage that leads to loss of independence," senior author Frank-Erik de Leeuw, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands, said in a news release.

The latest study involved 722 people who had a first stroke when they were between the ages of 18 and 50. Researchers found that one-third of participants had at least moderate disability and required assistance for some activities.

Many participants were also unable to complete routine tasks independently, such as caring for themselves, doing household chores or looking after their finances.

"Most doctors view young stroke patients as a group with great recovery opportunities," de Leeuw said.

"But our study is the first to show these almost life-long effects of stroke on performance. This is important to communicate right from the start to patients and families," he added.

The study revealed that after a transient ischemic attack or "mini-stroke," 16.8 percent had functional disability and 10.8 percent had poor skills for independence. After an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot in the brain, 36.5 percent had functional disability and 14.6 were unable to live independently. After a hemorrhagic stroke, caused by a brain bleed, 49.3 percent had functional disability and 18.2 percent didn't have the skills for independent living.

The study revealed that people fared worse if they experienced another stroke during the follow-up period. The findings revealed that 54.9 percent of the participants who did were at least moderately disabled, compared with 28.7 percent of those without a recurrent stroke. The study also revealed 33.3 percent were dependent on others in activities of daily living compared with 11.5 percent of those without a recurrent stroke.

"We don't know if it's cognition, depression, problems in their families or relationships or other factors, but once we do, we can develop more effective interventions," de Leeuw said.

The findings are published in the journal Stroke.

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