Salons Seeing More Strokes In Stylists' Chairs

Medical Trend At Salon Not So Pretty

POSTED: 11:48 am CDT May 7, 2007
UPDATED: 7:32 pm CDT May 7, 2007

Doctors are finding links between visits to a hair salon and strokes, NBC reported.

Video: Beauty Shop Stroke?

Beauty parlor strokes usually occur when customers sit in reclined positions with their heads and necks flexed backwards for a long period of time, according to Dr. Thomas Hemmen, of the University of California, San Diego. They are caused by tears in one or more of the four major arteries in the neck, which in turn cause blood clots to form. The clots then travel to the brain and trigger strokes.

Marilyn Noonan tore the carotid artery on the right side of her neck after leaning back into a sink to get her hair washed. Instead of going to the event she had planned for the day, she ended up going to the hospital.

"I looked in the mirror and this pupil was huge and this one was pin-point," Noonan said. "The neurologist asked me, 'When did you last have your hair done?' and I said, 'Just hours ago.'"

Noonan's neurologist said symptoms of beauty parlor strokes can be delayed and vague.

"It's very unusual and that's why it's not often diagnosed," said Dr. Shirley Otis.

"Manufactures need to try to address it (strokes) with new design shampoo bowls and new chairs," said Tony Botticella, of La Jolla Hair Studio.

There are simple ways beauty parlor customers can lower their risk, such as limiting the amount of time the neck is bent backwards and asking for padding under the neck. Noonan said she has been bending over forward to get her hair washed.

"The longer your in a retro-flex position the worse the risk," said Dr. Thomas Hemmen. "I tell my patients to avoid that position for more than a minute or two."

Although doctors say the standard hair-washing position is still safe for most people, they warn those who have carotid artery disease or are at high risk of stroke to avoid bending their neck backwards at all.

Beauty parlor strokes are treated with the same types of medications as other strokes.
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