COVID-19 moves swiftly, and in some cases is devastating and even deadly. Because this disease is a novel virus, the data, and information on how it impacts our population, is limited but ever-growing. As the world continues to analyze, review, and research the viruses’ symptoms and long term impact, we come closer to important answers about the disease. With more cases diagnosed every day, scientific experts, immunologists, and medical professionals worldwide are frantically working to find treatments for those affected with the hope that someday a vaccine will be available.

Newly emerging data points to the potential for some unfortunate long term issues for those suffering from a COVID-19 infection. For those who suffer minimal symptoms, the long term effects may not be understood for quite some time. Unfortunately, the long term effects of COVID-19 on the brain may mean some very serious risks for individuals diagnosed with the virus. In one of our previous blogs, we discussed how COVID-19 affects the brain. At the time, some researchers witnessed neurological symptoms in some patients diagnosed with the disease. Now, several months later, researchers have found that not only do some patients display severe neurological symptoms that coincide with respiratory symptoms, but some patients showed only neurological symptoms upon diagnoses. These researchers discovered that neurological symptoms may impact more individuals than previously thought, changing the landscape for treatment and faster diagnoses moving forward.

The Impact of Inflammation in the Brain Due to COVID-19

In a recent study, researchers examined the emerging spectrum of COVID-19 neurology. In this study, preliminary data indicated that a severe COVID-19 infection can be associated with neurological and neuropsychiatric illness. Further, a high incidence of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) was observed in several infected patients; inflammation of the brain was widespread throughout the study group. ADEM is a rare condition typically observed in children who’ve contracted a viral infection. An alarming increase in adult patients with ADEM was seen throughout the progression of this research study.

brain damage and COVID-19

While these symptoms resulting from brain inflammation were found in patients diagnosed with the disease, the study found that COVID-19 may not be directly attacking the brain. This suggests that brain and neurological damage may be caused by the immune response the body has to the disease’s attack on the respiratory system. Once the disease has been contracted, complications for patients can include the following:

  • Transient encephalopathies
  • Encephalitis
  • Delirium
  • Brain inflammation
  • Stroke
  • Nerve damage
  • Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis

Dr. Michael Zandi of the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We should be vigilant and look out for these complications in people who have had Covid-19. Whether we will see an epidemic on a large scale of brain damage linked to the pandemic – perhaps similar to the encephalitis lethargica outbreak in the 1920s and 1930s after the 1918 influenza pandemic – remains to be seen.”

The Potential Long Term Effects of COVID-19 on the Brain

Inflammation in the brain can cause a wide range of symptoms and complications. Some of these complications are short term while many others may have long term, life-changing effects for those infected. If you or anyone you know are experiencing neurological symptoms without respiratory symptoms, be sure to notify your medical professional. Resulting damage to neurons and other neurological structures may lead tolong term effects including the following:

  • Cognitive delay or degeneration
  • Mood changes
  • Speech impairment
  • Memory loss
  • Epilepsy
  • Delirium
  • Dementia-related disorders
  • Nerve damage

While this data is alarming in a time where our daily routines and normal way of life have been turned upside down, it’s promising when it comes to treatments and patient care management. While researchers and experts continue to study how this virus works, the answers to questions regarding diagnoses, treatment plans, and quicker more effective recoveries are getting clearer. We aren’t out of the woods yet, but with our greatest minds at work studying COVID-19 and its effects on the brain and body, we’re getting there. Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay confident that our experts are well on their way to finding a cure.

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