Coronavirus

HOW DOES COVID AFFECT THE NERVOUS SYSTEM?

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Neurological implications due to Covid have far-reaching consequences, primarily as a fall-out of other complications that Covid causes, like ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome). Covid lasting over 12 weeks is termed as Chronic Covid, which can severely debilitate the autonomic nervous system (Post Covid Neurological Syndrome or PCNS). The impact of Covid is even more severe if there is a pre-existing neurological issue like stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease, with hugely increased chance of hospitalization. More than one-third of all Covid patients show neurological and psychiatric conditions, long after recovery.

It has been observed that patients who have suffered a severe bout of Covid, have shown some or all of the following symptoms and risks, with regard to their central nervous system alone:

  • Loss of sense of smell (Anosmia);
  • Loss of sense of taste;
  • Headache;
  • Dizziness;
  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Muscular weakness;
  • Disturbed sleep: either too much sleepiness or insomnia;
  • Cognitive impairment, mental confusion and brain fog;
  • Difficulty in concentrating;
  • Psychological distress and agitation;
  • Anxiety, fear and depression (due to social isolation and fear of mortality – especially in severe cases which require hospitalization).
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD);
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome, wherein the body’s immune system attacks the nerves due to a viral infection, resulting in partial or full paralysis;
  • Seizures due to viral encephalitis;
  • Meningitis or brain fever;
  • Encephalopathy due to hypotension, hypoxia (low level of oxygen in the blood) and renal failure, resulting in confusion, brain fog, delirium and coma;
  • Acute cerebrovascular disease.

The virus enters the body by clinging to the ACE 2-receptors (angiotensin-converting enzymes) present in the nasal mucosa and other organs like lungs, kidneys, heart and brain and blood vessel lining – it gains access to the central nervous system through the bloodstream and infects the endothelial cells, causing all inflammation in the cells, which leads to cytokine storms. The virus spreads to the peripheral nervous system through neuronal routes. Minute cracks in the inflamed small blood vessels cause the blood to leak into the brain (called micro bleed) and small clumps and clots form, leading to strokes. The cytokine storm (speedy proliferation and acute inflammation of cells) could lead to multi-system and multi-organ failure, besides hormonal dysfunction, electrolyte imbalance, water imbalance and toxin accumulation resulting in headache, brain fog, confusion, and agitation, etc. Hypoxia can also be the cause of brain damage.

Post-Covid Care

  • Rebuild your immunity;
  • Address the multi-systemic issues;
  • Consult a neurologist to assess the extent of damage to the nervous system;
  • Get vaccinated;
  • Continue to follow the prescribed social distancing and hygiene recommendations;

Seek psychiatric support for mental health issues.

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