Are Children and Young Adults at Risk for a Stroke? Are Children and Young Adults at Risk for a Stroke?
National Institutes of Health

The young have several risk factors unique to them. Young people seem to suffer from hemorrhagic strokes more than ischemic strokes, a significant difference from older age groups where ischemic strokes make up the majority of stroke cases. Hemorrhagic strokes represent 20 percent of all strokes in the United States and young people account for many of these.

Clinicians often separate the “young” into two categories: those younger than 15 years of age and those 15-44 years of age. People 15-44 years of age are generally considered young adults and may have some of the risk factors such as drug use, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, head and neck injuries, heart disease or heart malformations, and infections. Some other causes of stroke in the young adult are linked to genetic disease.

Medical complications that can lead to stroke in children include intracranial infections, brain injury, vascular malformation such as moyamoya syndrome, occlusive vascular disease, and Marfan’s syndrome. The systems of a stroke in children are different from those in adults and young adults. A child experiencing a stroke may have seizures, a sudden loss of speech, a loss of expressive language (including body language and gesture), a weakness on one side of the body, paralysis on one side of the body, impairment of speech, convulsions, headache, or fever. It is a medical emergency when a child shows any of these symptoms.

Most children who experience a stroke will do better than most adults after treatment and rehabilitation. This is due in part to the immature brain’s great plasticity, the ability to adapt to deficits and injury. Children who experience seizures along with a stroke do not recover as well as children who do not have seizures. Some children may experience paralysis on one side of the body, though most will eventually learn how to walk.