The world is well aware of many of the health problems caused by COVID-19 including issues with respiratory function, the heart, and other organs. However, a new study is showing that the coronavirus can also cause a variety of neurological conditions, even in moderate cases. It has the potential to cause strokes, seizures, and altered mental states.
Researchers have found that at their safety-net hospital, there were many types of neurological complications that occurred with COVID-19 patients. A safety-net hospital is one that is obligated to treat people even if they can’t pay. This often means low-income patients who are not insured or who are on Medicaid. It also means a large number of minority patients. Those who are in these categories have already been hard hit by the coronavirus.
What Was Found?
Dr. Pria Anand from Boston Medical Center and colleagues looked into the records of more than 900 patients who have been treated for COVID-19 at the safety-net hospital between April 15 and July 1. Out of those 900 patients, they found that 74% of them needed to have a neurological consult or admission.
They found that 18 patients suffered a stroke and 15 had seizures. 26 patients were diagnosed with encephalopathy. Other patients developed movement problems and some developed never damage. Five patients developed myoclonus. This causes the muscles to jerk or twitch involuntarily.
Researchers said that one patient started to show signs of autoimmune encephalitis. This is a rare condition that causes the body’s own immune system to start attacking tissue in the brain of the spinal cord and will cause inflammation. This patient was treated using anti-inflammatory corticosteroids, and they improved after treatment.
They found that there wasn’t just one area or type of neurological condition caused by COVID-19. Dr. Anand said that neurological complications could vary greatly. Some of the problems were related to an overactive immune response, causing the immune system to attack the nerves. Other times, the complications might occur because the patient is critically ill and could be on a ventilator.
They found that sometimes, the virus affects the vascular system, which could make the blood clot and could potentially cause problems like stroke. She also said that in some patients, the virus will get into the central nervous system. The researchers’ findings were published in Neurology Clinical Practice.
Doctors are starting to learn more about ways they can manage the virus, including ways that can help to prevent neurologic complications according to Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesperson for the Infectious Disease Society of America. He also said that it’s important for people to realize that even though milder cases of COVID-19 might not be fatal, they can still create lasting and lingering results.
Many doctors around the world have been reporting that their patients, including those with mild cases, could sometimes have lingering fatigue even after they’ve recovered from COVID-19. They have a brain fog that can cause problems with their mental skills, concentration, and memory.
One of the other things Dr. Glatt stressed was that too many young people have a false sense of security and believe that it’s only older people who end up in the hospital. However, he went on to say that he’s taken care of patients in their 30s and 40s, who were extremely sick. He also wants people to be aware of the other effects that the virus can have other than death, including the neurological issues mentioned above.
Dr. Anand said that out of her study group 10 patients died. Most left the hospital but needed to go to nursing facilities or to have other care after leaving the hospital to ensure they recovered. COVID-19 continues to be a danger, and doctors are still learning the full effects of this virus.