A new set of research has suggested that almost half of children who have a stroke report a headache beforehand.
The study, conducted by American scientists, considered cases of 300 children who suffered a stroke and found that 46 per cent had experienced head pain during an episode.
This was a far higher proportion than the adults who experience a headache when they have an ischaemic stroke – which is caused by a blood clot in the brain.
The team of experts were keen to determine whether the pain was in anyway linked to the reasons that the child had suffered a stroke.
Dr Lori Billinghurst, the assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “Stroke should be considered as a possible diagnosis in any child with a headache and additional symptoms of weakness or numbness – in the face, arm, or leg – or changes in walking, talking, or vision.
“Urgent brain imaging may be required to distinguish a migraine with aura from a stroke.”
The neurologists are still trying to determine whether there was any particular reason that youngsters tended to experience different symptoms to those reported in adults.
Dr Billinghurst said: “It is possible that younger brains have blood vessels that are more easily distended and more likely to activate pain sensors that trigger headache.
“It is also possible that inflammation – a powerful activator of pain sensors – may be more important in the processes underlying stroke in children than in adults.
“The study has already shown that inflammation plays a key role in the vascular injury pathway in children with stroke.”
The Stroke Association said that childhood strokes are uncommon, affecting around five in 100,000 under 18s in the UK each year. In contrast to adults, strokes in children tend to be caused by congenital defects as opposed to lifestyle.
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