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How COVID-19 Impacts the Brain?

Published On Jan 07, 2021, Updated On Apr 23, 2021

During the initial few months of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the doctors were struggling hard to keep the patient breathing. This drew their attention more towards treating the damaged lungs and the circulatory system. But then also there was evidence of neurological effects on the patients. Some patients experienced delirium, i.e. they were confused, agitated, and disoriented. In April, there was a report published by a group in Japan about someone with COVID-19 having swelling and inflammation in the brain tissues. There was another report that described a patient with the deterioration of myelin, which is a fatty acid for the protection of neurons. It gets irreversibly damaged in a neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis.

How COVID-19 Impacts the Brain?

COVID-19 patients are now experiencing a large number of effects, which range in severity. Starting from confusion, to loss of smell and taste, to life-threatening strokes, people are witnessing them all. Young patients who are in their 30s or 40s are suffering from life-changing neurological issues because of strokes. While the researchers do not have any answers about why the brain may be harmed, they have several theories and they are trying to find the answer for the same.

Recently, there have been two studies that have explored the neurological effects of COVID-19 on patients. As per research published in the journal Neurology, it was pointed out several neurological manifestations whereas another research published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology said that neurological manifestations were there in around one-third of the COVID-19 patients who were studied.

What Does the New Research Tell Us?

The first study that was published in Neurology, conducted in more than 11 hospitals including 64 patients. Out of these, 43 were men and 21 were women. The average age of the patients studied was 66 years. Of them, the MRIs of 36 patients, that is 54% were considered abnormal and ischemic strokes, around 17% leptomeningeal enhancement and encephalitis (13%).

The most common neurologic manifestation that 53% of the patients experienced was confusion, followed by impaired consciousness (39%), agitation (31%), clinical signs of corticospinal tract involvement (31%), and headache (16%). Nearly half of the patients involved in the study had acute respiratory distress syndrome, while 11% died.

The second study carefully looked at neurological manifestations in more than 509 patients in a hospital network in Illinois, Chicago. As per the study, neurological manifestations in 215 patients (42.2%) were found at the onset of the disease. In 319 patients (62.7%), it was found at the time of hospitalisation, and in 419 patients (82.3%), it was found at any time until the disease lasted.

According to the study, myalgias (44.8%) was one of the most frequent manifestations, followed by headaches (37.7%), then encephalopathy (31.8%), then dizziness (29.7%), then dysgeusia (15.9%), and then anosmia (11.4%). Moreover, it was also found that strokes and movement disorders were uncommon in these patients, but 26.3% of them required mechanical ventilation. Quite evidently, the researchers believe that independent risk factors to begin to have manifestations include severe COVID-19 at a younger age.


Covid-19 Health Insurance

Bottom Line

As per the first report, it implies that the COVID-19 patients can develop a wide range of neurologic manifestations, that may be linked to fatal and severe complications like encephalitis and stroke. Whereas the second report implies that the neurological manifestations occur in most COVID-19 patients who were hospitalised. Researchers also concluded that encephalopathy was linked to increased morbidity and mortality, independent of the severity of the disease. Note that encephalopathy is a broad term used for diseases that change the functioning and structure of the brain.

Must Read 

The Impact of Covid-19 On Major Body Organs Explained

Exploring the After-Effects of Coronavirus Disease

Disclaimer: This article is issued in the general public interest and meant for general information purposes only. Readers are advised not to rely on the contents of the article as conclusive in nature and should research further or consult an expert in this regard.


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