SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — COVID-19 can get into your head.
Dr. Nessim Amin, a neurologist with Sanford Health, said while the virus can attack the lungs, it’s also an “inflammation of the body.” The coronavirus can affect many organs including the brain.
Individuals hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19 can have altered mental states or can reach a level of consciousness and responsiveness “as severe as being in a coma.”
Older patients are among the most vulnerable to such complications, Dr. Amin said.
Elderly patients can develop some brain symptoms even with a simple infection but “usually this is reversed after the second or third day” Dr. Amin said. When the fever is reduced and symptoms improve, so do the symptoms of altered mental function, Amin said.
But COVID-19 can case an encephalitis which can cause symptoms such as seizures and hallucinations.
Amin said COVID-19 has been found in the spinal fluid of patients which means it may be attacking the central nervous system.
COVID-19 can impact memory, mood behavior and even lead to dementia, Amin said.
A report from the Mayo Clinic echoes Amin. “COVID-19 may also increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease,” the Mayo report said.
Dr. Amin said the nerve and muscular damage happens two to three weeks into the virus.
A weakness in the legs in a COVID-19 patient can be caused by Guillain-Barre syndrome which can cause temporary paralysis.
A June 8 study, released through the National Center for Biotechnology Information, discusses several neurological implications from COVID-19. The study cited patients in China who had seizures and strokes.
“People can have strokes,” Amin said. A stroke won’t typically happen in the first day or two of the virus but several days later, he said.
Hospitalized patients are monitored frequently during their stays so that complications can be detected, Amin said.
Often the complications will require prolonged hospitalization or rehabilitation and even nursing home care before they improve, Amin said.
Amin said a loss of taste or smell is “an early sign of some damage to the nerves.”
But individuals who may have changes in their thinking or sleep patterns should seek medical advice, Amin said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean they have COVID-19,” Amin said. But the individuals should get the medical advice to learn how to respond, he said.
Individuals who come to the emergency room with symptoms of a stroke or similar issues are always tested for COVID-19, Amin said.