COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, but it also has neurological effects. In fact, new research reported by Johns Hopkins suggests that as many as half of COVID-19 sufferers who end up in the hospital may experience neurological effects. Neurology and COVID-19 go together more often than expected.
Neurology and COVID-19
COVID-19 has effects on the brain.
Some of the specific symptoms identified by researchers worldwide:
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of smell and taste
- Trouble focusing
- Changes in behavior
- Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can lead to paralysis
Scientists are working to determine whether the neurological symptoms are caused directly by the virus, or instead by the body’s immune response. Different treatments would be required by these different possibilities.
Some of the neurological symptoms of COVID-19 clear up with the virus, but others can create long-term problems. Strokes have been a particular issue, showing up in young patients with no other risk factors, sometimes as the first symptom that brings the patient to the hospital.
Inflammation of the brain is another symptom that can cause problems even once the infection is over.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that COVID-19 may also increase the danger of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases (as was seen after the 1918 flu pandemic). They also report that the treatment of severe COVID-19 may itself be such a difficult experience that it can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, or anxiety.
Information from the 1918 flu pandemic shows that mental health issues showed up in the survivors of the pandemic after they recovered; researchers now see similarities between those cases and COVID-19 survivors.
The bottom line
Research on the neurological effects of COVID-19, like much of the research on this new disease, doesn’t yet have all the answers. However, it is clear that COVID-19 can be a very serious disease with terrible consequences. It is important to continue to take the precautions that will help limit contagion: