Brain Damage due to COVID-19

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COVID-19 was considered a respiratory illness, which primarily affected the lungs. It was also believed that most people infected by this disease will have mild symptoms and recover without specialized treatment.

However, experts have now discovered that the coronavirus can manifest itself in various ways, leading to complications in various organs of the body. A growing body of research now shows that COVID-19 is linked to serious neurological problems. It is also coming to light that this virus can cause possibly fatal brain damage.

Nervous System

The nerves, brain, and spinal cord are vulnerable to the coronavirus. Research has now found that COVID-19 can cause brain inflammation and severe nerve damage.

Symptoms such as alteration of the sense of taste and smell, strokes, weakness, seizures, dizziness, confusion, and headaches are associated with COVID-19.

Research

Researchers at the University College London (UCL) published a study in the journal Brain, which included an analysis of 43 patients with either confirmed or suspected COVID-19. The patients were in the age group of 16-85 years old. These patients were treated at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London. The patients showed varied symptoms of the disease, ranging from mild to severe. The group showed five major categories of neurological and neuropsychiatric illnesses. These included encephalopathies (damage that affects the brain), inflammation like encephalitis or acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), ischemic strokes, disorders like Guillain Barre Syndrome, and other disorders without a specific category.

Observations

Among the cases studied, 12 had inflammation of the central nervous system, 8 had strokes, 8 had peripheral nerve disorders like Guillain Barre Syndrome ( that attacks the nerves and causes paralysis), 5 had other disorders, and 10 were found with delirium and psychosis due to brain disease.

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The increase in the incidence of the life-threatening condition ADEM was a worrying discovery in this study. ADEM was found to have affected 9 of the patients. ADEM is a rare, possibly fatal condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the protective covering of the nerve fibers. This leads to inflammation in the nervous system and can lead to headaches, fatigue, vision loss, and even paralysis. Researchers in this study stated that where they would see 1 patient with ADEM per month before the pandemic, the numbers have risen to a worrying 1 patient per week.

One instance was about a 55-year-old woman, with no psychiatric history. She displayed symptoms of COVID-19 and later started showing signs of delirium. The patient was disoriented and showed signs of visual and auditory hallucinations.

One more case study involved a 58-year-old man, who had acute onset aphasia and right-sided weakness. He had a cough with tiredness for a few days before consulting medical officials.

Future

A complete list of neurological conditions linked to COVID-19 is still unknown. It has been suggested that it is essential to follow up with recovered patients to ascertain the long-term effects of this disease. It is also essential for doctors to ensure that signs of neurological complications are detected and referred to specialists so that correct treatment and diagnosis protocols can be set up.

Originally posted 2020-08-10 07:53:52.