British researchers have found that Coronavirus survivors can have permanent brain damage, even if they don’t fall severely ill.
Since this study by University College London has come out, doctors have started testing COVID-19 infected people in a whole new way – checking for brain damage as well as testing the respiratory system.
Even people without any symptoms can suffer brain damage
The scientists said that even the infected people who didn’t show any respiratory symptoms, they had neurological complications such as stroke, nerve damage, and fatal brain inflammation.
Now, they will be conducting more rigorous studies to examine the long-term effects of Coronavirus on the brain health.
90% of the tested patients under study had some kind of brain damage
UCL Hospitals examined 43 patients who were infected with Coronavirus and showed mild to severe symptoms. The patient group was aged 16 to 85.
Researchers discovered that 23% people had temporary brain dysfunction and delirium, 27% had brain inflammation, 20% had strokes and another 20% had nerve damage. So a total of 90% people had some kind of brain damage from the COVID-19.
Many patients with brain inflammation also had ADEM (Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis) that is a very specific and rare disease and it can be lethal in certain circumstances. Although ADEM cases have been seen before, the number of news cases rose up by 400% after the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 associated brain damage also affected different people in different ways.
Some people hallucinated seeing wild animals in their houses, while others felt numbness, double vision, and disorientation. Others just fell unconscious and they became conscious only when their pain levels rose.
But Coronavirus is not even attacking the brain!
We still don’t know why exactly the brain is this badly affected by COVID-19. Doctors tested the dead patients and found that the Coronavirus was not found in the brain fluid. This means that the virus is not directly damaging the brain. So it could be possible that brain damage is caused by an overreaction from immune system just like it does to your heart, kidney, and liver when attacked by Coronavirus.
This is an important discovery for scientists and doctors worldwide, since it helps them treat patients in a more comprehensive way. Since brain damage is possible even in patients who don’t experience any respiratory problems or show any other symptoms. In that case, it is even difficult for doctors to know which patients they should check for brain damage.
Even critically ill patients cannot be tested for brain damage quick enough, because their other body organs need more emergency care.
Doctors say it’s not surprising that COVID-19 damages the brain
Further studies will help uncover how the virus is causing brain damage and how it can be treated.
Dr Ross Paterson, who is one of the authors of this research, said that we don’t really know about the long-term health effects of COVID-19.
Dr David Strain said that it was not surprising that COVID-19 affects brain health.
“We’ve already seen that some people with Covid-19 may need a long rehabilitation period — both physical rehabilitation such as exercise, and brain rehabilitation. We need to understand more about the impact of this infection on the brain.”
Featured Image Courtesy: UCL