Many coronavirus patients suffer dizziness, delirium, and difficulty concentrating because COVID-19 targets the entire nervous system
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Crystal Cox / Business Insider
In a new study, doctors found that almost half of COVID-19 patients in the hospital experience neurological symptoms such as dizziness, loss of smell and taste, and difficulty concentrating.
The study's authors say that these symptoms may appear before the more treacherous signs of coronavirus, such as fever and difficulty breathing.
Other experts and survivors have detailed worrying short and long-term cognitive symptoms that can be determined from the results.
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About half of the coronavirus patients in the hospital suffer from neurological symptoms such as dizziness, difficulty concentrating, loss of smell and taste, seizures, strokes and weakness. This emerges from a new study published in the Annals of Neurology.
The results show that COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is far more than a respiratory infection and is rather a "global threat" to the entire nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and nerves, the study authors say.
"It is important for the general public and doctors to be aware of this, as SARS-COV-2 infection can initially be accompanied by neurological symptoms before fever, cough or breathing problems occur," said lead study author Dr. Igor Koralnik. Professor of Neurology at Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University said in a press release.
Some of the other neurological symptoms that occurred in patients were headache, decreased alertness, and muscle pain.
Nurses care for a COVID-19 patient on the Desert Valley Medical Group ventilator. Victorville, CA.
Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
It makes sense that COVD-19 can affect the nervous system if, for example, the wear and tear of the virus on the lungs and heart makes it difficult to get enough oxygen to the brain. This, in turn, can contribute to the strokes that some COVID-19 patients have experienced.
The virus can also directly infect the brain, the study's authors say, and the immune system's response to it can cause inflammation that damages the brain and nerves.
It is too early to know if and how long the neurological consequences will be and for whom, but Koralnik and his colleagues plan to find out by continuing to follow COVID-19 survivors who were treated in their hospital.
Other studies and experts have pointed out the short- and long-term cognitive consequences
The current study helps to capture and explain something that many doctors, patients, and mental health providers have drawn attention to: the seemingly high rates and persistence of short- and long-term cognitive complications from COVID-19.
One study found that 65% of COVID-19 patients suffer from delirium, an often horrific after-care effect that can result in vivid hallucinations, disorientation, irritability, and a number of other startling cognitive changes. One expert called delirium an "epidemic" in itself.
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients may also be prone to anxiety and panic attacks, as well as post-ICU syndrome or PICS, a group of symptoms, including generalized weakness, cognitive challenges, and bad mood.
Unlike medical post-traumatic stress disorder, which is also a problem for COVID-19 patients, PICS is usually not debilitating enough to reach clinical levels of depression or anxiety, but it can survive and their family members for months or years drain, Dr. Craig Weinert, pulmonologist and intensive care doctor at the University of Minnesota, who examined the mental health outcomes of intensive care patients, told Business Insider.
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Crystal Cox / Business Insider
Any life-threatening illness where people have ended up in the intensive care unit can lead to cognitive and psychological complications, including delirium and PICS, because oxygen intake, sedatives are limited, and they are in a strange environment in which patients are day and night Knowing nothing.
However, experts say that aspects of COVID-19 are likely to make these consequences more common, including how it can infect the brain, the duration of a ventilator, high doses of sedatives, and, above all, the physical isolation of family members during the period Treatment.
"This is unprecedented - the inability to have a family near you while experiencing and recovering from this serious illness," said Weinert.
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