Unexpected strokes in young people are caused by a rare genetic disorder, according to research unveiled at the European Stroke congress in Brussels.
German researchers found that four per cent of people aged between 18 and 55 who had suffered from stroke also had Fabry Disease.
The study indicated that those with Fabry Disease experienced stroke ten years younger than patients without the disease, suggesting that although the findings only relate to a small number of victims of early strokes, they did highlight a previously unknown and treatable cause.
"This will allow them to be treated with the most appropriate medication and may allow affected family members to be diagnosed and treated earlier as well," explained Professor Arndt Rolfs, the study's leading investigator.
Dr Isabel Lee, of the UK's Stroke Association, told the BBC: "Stroke is the UK's third biggest killer and we recognise the importance of research into Fabry disease in the search for a reason for unexplained strokes in younger people."
The researchers believe that one in 100 of all sufferers of early stroke may have Fabry disease.
Fabry Disease affects the body's ability to process fatty acids causing a build-up of lipids in the kidneys, heart, nervous system and skin.