By: on In Latest

Silent Strokes


Strokes are scary, there are no two ways about it. They can happen to anyone, at anytime and anywhere, and what’s worst of all is that you probably wouldn’t know you were about to have one until it was too late. But what if a person did in fact, have a stroke, or multiple ones, and had no idea that they were happening?

In 2012, an Ontario man by the name of Peter Chaban was doing dishes at his vacation home in the Collingwood region of the province. While running warm water, he noticed that he couldn’t feel any sensation on his hand as the water poured over it. The next thing he knew, he had lost all sensation and strength on the left side of his body and dropped to the floor – completely unable to move.

By the time that first responders arrived, Chaban had all but completely recovered. Doctors at the local hospital diagnosed him with a probably transient ischemic attack, or TIA, which is a type of temporary stroke that leaves no permanent damage.

Upon his arrival back home in Toronto, Chaban went for an MRI in order to confirm that diagnosis, which proved accurate.

However, the MRI did more than just confirm the diagnosis, it revealed that this event wasn’t an isolated incident; in fact, it was discovered that there were quite a few lesions on the brain, a direct result of “silent strokes.”

Interestingly enough, when asked about these past strokes, Chaban was at a loss, having never experienced any symptoms.

It is for this reason that they are known as “silent strokes,” for typically, patients have no idea that they have experienced a miniature clot or microbleed in the brain, mainly because it results in no loss of function.

“I was never aware of any deficits,” said Chaban, 64, who retired from his research job at the Hospital for Sick Children three years ago. “When I was employed, I was quite cognitively active.

“I was physically very active. I ski, play golf, I played squash until a few years ago. And my health is very good, so the silent strokes hadn’t expressed themselves, at least to my awareness.”

According to doctors, silent strokes become more common as people age.

How common? About seven per cent of people in their 50s have silent strokes. That figure rises to about 15 percent for those in their 70s. And among people aged 80-plus, about one-quarter have unknowingly been affected.

While the stroke itself may not show signs of its occurrence, it is when they happen in large amounts that concerns begin to be had.

Researchers estimate that for every symptomatic stroke, there are up to 10 silent strokes.
“Because when you start to collect these silent strokes, they start out silent. But if you get too many of them they can also cause problems with memory and thinking,” says Dr. Eric Smith, a neurologist and medical director of the cognitive neurosciences clinic at the University of Calgary.

Although these strokes can occur with no signs or trailing symptoms, it is advisable that upon reaching a certain age that regular MRI’s are performed to monitor any and all changes in the brain.