Hallucinations, delirium, ADEM and much more: How novel coronavirus can affect brain of even mild COVID-19 patients
The scientists found in their study that the novel coronavirus leads to various conditions of the central and peripheral nervous system in the infected people.
Initially, the doctors and scientists dealing with this novel coronavirus believed that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus and is similar to the one that causes the flu. However, as the number of cases kept increasing, the doctors found that while that assumption is true, the virus not only affects the lungs but several other organs such as the heart, liver and the brain as well. In a recent study, scientists from the UK found that with even mild cases of COVID-19 may suffer from serious brain damage.
The study: SARS-CoV-2 affects the brain
A recent study published in the journal Brain on 8 July 2020, stated that neurological symptoms could be a sign of COVID-19 infection in people. In their study, scientists from various universities in the UK studied 40 adult patients with COVID-19 infection who showed a wide variety of serious brain disease symptoms. While most of the patients also had typical COVID-19 symptoms such as fever or respiratory issues, others only had neurological symptoms after getting infected with the virus. The age of the patients ranged from 16 to 85 years. The neurological symptoms seen in these patients included delirium, psychosis, stroke and other damage to the peripheral nerves present in extremities such as hands and feet.
Neurological diseases in COVID-19 patients
The scientists found in their study that the virus leads to various conditions of the central and peripheral nervous system in the infected people. The following neurological diseases were more prevalent in COVID-19 patients:
- Encephalopathy: Encephalopathy means any damage, disease or malfunction in the brain which can lead to loss of memory, dementia, seizures, coma and even death.
- Psychosis: Psychosis is a mental condition in which a person loses contact with reality. The person starts hallucinating and starts believing things that are not actually true (delusions).
- Autoimmune encephalitis: Autoimmune encephalitis is a condition in which the body’s immune system starts attacking the healthy brain cells of the body, resulting in inflammation of the brain.
- Delirium: Delirium is a sudden and mostly temporary condition which affects the concentration, judgment, and consciousness of the person. Delirium makes it difficult for the patients to think, remember and even sleep.
- Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM): Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is a condition in which there is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord that leads to damage of the myelin sheet (the protective covering of nerve fibres). Some people also showed the signs of ADEM along with haemorrhage (bleeding) in the brain.
- Acute hemorrhagic leukoencephalopathy (AHLE): Acute hemorrhagic leukoencephalopathy is a rare and severe form of ADEM which affects the white matter of the brain, thus impairing the cognitive ability of the brain.
- Stroke: A stroke is a condition where the blood supply to a portion of the brain is cut off, either due to rupture of one of the blood vessels in the brain or due to a blockage in a blood vessel of the brain.
The scientists stated that since early identification, testing and treatment of COVID-19-related neurological disease is difficult, further clinical, radiological and pathological studies are required to find out the mechanism with which the virus infects the brain.
For more information, read our article on Neurological symptoms of COVID-19
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