Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome / Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency

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What is Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome?

We go to a beauty parlor or a salon for some pampering and to look better. There are times when the results may not be up to our expectations, but something that we definitely do not expect is to end up in the emergency with a salon-induced stroke.

Beauty parlor-induced stroke is a reality, with several stories and accounts included in medical literature that could leave us horror-struck. A woman suffered a stroke with limb weakness, and vision and balance problems a few days after a visit to the salon. Another woman felt nausea and vomiting following a salon treatment.

Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome/ Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency

Though uncommon, a stroke can be a consequence of a beauty parlor visit, the syndrome being referred to as beauty parlor stroke syndrome. It is extremely important for both beauticians as well as clients to be aware of this condition as simple precautions could avoid a disaster.

What are the Causes of Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome?

Our neck connects our head to the rest of our body. The brain requires a continuous supply of oxygenated blood, which comes from arteries through the neck. Two arteries called the vertebral arteries go up the neck through the bones of the spinal column called the vertebrae. They join to form the basilar artery at the base of the skull. The basilar artery supplies blood to several important structures in the brain, especially the posterior and middle parts. Any interruption to the flow of blood through these arteries due to a clot or external pressure on the artery can produce symptoms of a transient ischemic attack (the harbinger of a stroke).

Beauty parlor stroke syndrome is particularly noted when a person goes to a parlor for a hair shampoo. As you may often have noticed, for a hair wash, you have to bend your head back into a salon sink. If the neck does not have any support or is bent excessively, there is a chance that the vertebral arteries may get compressed resulting in obstruction to blood flow or damage to the inner layer of the blood vessels. This can promote clot formation, which can in turn get dislodged and settle in some part of the brain resulting in a stroke. The condition is also called vertebrobasilar insufficiency.

Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency

In some cases, the inner layer of the carotid arteries, the arteries in the front of the neck, may be similarly affected. In these patients, the front part of the brain is affected with symptoms reflecting the same.

What are the Symptoms of Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome?

Symptoms of beauty parlor stroke syndrome depend on the part of the brain affected. Symptoms may appear immediately or over a few days or weeks after salon treatment. These include:
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Problems with vision like blurred vision and double vision
  • Loss of balance
  • Vertigo
  • Numbness in the face
  • Weakness of a limb/limbs resulting in drop attacks
  • Slurring of speech
  • Pain in the neck
Pain in Neck due to Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome

Not all people suffer from beauty parlor stroke syndrome when exposed to similar conditions. Conditions that increase the risk include the following:
  • Previous partial obstruction to the artery due to atherosclerosis
  • Longer duration of the extended position of the neck
  • Presence of smaller vertebral arteries
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Middle to Older age
  • Arthritis of the spinal column of the neck


How do you Diagnose Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome?

Beauty parlor stroke syndrome is diagnosed based on the typical medical history where a patient experiences symptoms that resemble a stroke following hair shampooing at a beauty parlor. A neurological examination shows neurological deficits depending on the part of brain affected.

Tests that may help to diagnose beauty parlor stroke syndrome include:
  • Imaging tests like CT scan and MRI to check for changes in the brain
  • Magnetic resonance angiography, to check for blood flow to the brain
  • Cardiac tests like ECG and echocardiogram to rule out a cardiac cause of stroke

How do you Treat Beauty Parlor Stroke Syndrome?

Beauty parlor stroke syndrome is treated similar to other strokes that are due to reduced blood supply or ischemia to the brain. Anti-platelet drugs and blood thinners could help to prevent worsening. Rehabilitation may be required in severe cases.


Health Tips

  • Ensure that your neck is in a comfortable position while your hair is being washed. The neck should not be bent backwards for more than 20 degrees.
  • An additional support for the neck can reduce the chances of beauty parlor syndrome.
Use Additional Support for the Neck

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