Can COVID-19 Reduce Cognitive Abilities – Everything You Need To Know

Last year, when the pandemic peaked, many patients with COVID19, whose symptoms were initially mild, developed long-term neurological problems. Although there was no strong evidence at the time, researchers around the world continued to research this topic. Now, there have been several studies that have linked COVID19 to the increased risk of neurological disorders.Also Read – Want to Pump Up Your Biceps Like Hritik Roshan? Follow This Workout Routine | Watch the video

There are reports of “brain fog” with broad psychological symptoms including low energy, trouble concentrating, disorientation, and difficulty finding the right words. In parallel, several studies have provided evidence that COVID19 patients can develop a range of neurological complications, including those resulting from encephalopathies, inflammatory syndrome, micro-hemorrhages and autoimmune responses. In the COVID and post-COVID phase, due to its hypercoagulable state, strokes are common, which can cause a rapid or sudden drop in cognition, in fact, post-COVID when we see a sharp and sudden drop of cognition or behavior, one should think of stroke in the arterial bloodstream areas ACA or PCA in the brain. These reports establish that COVID can leave a permanent scar on neurological health. Also Read – Lockdown in Maharashtra will be re-imposed if oxygen demand exceeds 700 tonnes, government official confirms

How does respiratory disease cause neurological and psychiatric effects?

In addition to the characteristic symptoms of COVID, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea, etc., many people experience symptoms related to their brain and nervous system, including dizziness, headache, debilitating fatigue, and brain fog or cognitive impairment, that is, problems with memorizing, learning and concentrating. While symptoms tend to go away once the person recovers, some COVID19 survivors experience long-term effects. Also Read – Rajasthan Lockdown: Alarmed by Third Wave of COVID, State Bans Public Gatherings, Rallies and Fairs | Check out the guidelines here

A recent study published in The Lancet indicates that cognitive impairment was worse in people who had more severe respiratory symptoms and in those who had received a confirmed positive test. The researchers adjusted their analysis to account for differences based on age, gender, education, or other demographic and socioeconomic variables. This report is the third in two months to report the impact of COVID-19 on the brain.

In June of this year, a team led by neuroscientists and researchers at the University of Oxford published that they had found significant loss of gray matter in COVID19 patients – indicating brain damage – and that the affected areas involved functions related to smell, taste, cognition and memory formation. Scientists and clinicians attending the Alzheimer’s Association 2021 International Conference reported findings from Greece and Argentina that suggest COVID19 has left older people with cognitive impairment, including long-lasting lack of smell and symptoms early Alzheimer’s type. However, it is important to note that these conditions will only occur if patients become hypoxic or when there is an insufficient level of oxygen in tissues and cells.

How to Identify Neurological and Mental Health Symptoms in Patients Recovered from COVID?

Common neurological problems include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Altered consciousness
  • Uncoordinated muscle movements
  • Seizures and strokes
  • Post-ICU syndrome, which includes cognitive, psychological, and neurological symptoms
  • Mental health issues include anxiety, difficulty sleeping, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Neurocognitive testing, psychiatric evaluation, and diagnostic imaging, even after recovery, should be continued for at least 6 months. Apart from this, there is a need for a strong support system for patients and their caregivers.

Above all, we need to understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with long COVIDs will not work. A holistic approach is therefore essential. Refrain from following trending solutions that claim to correct all of your long-lasting symptoms of COVID. Personalized assessment and tailored nutritional management as well as physical and psychological coaching are needed to help faster recovery. Talk to your doctor and learn effective brain exercises. Avoid alcohol and refrain from self-medication; also, avoid any medication that could interfere with your brain function.

(Contributions from Dr Kaustubh Mahajan, consultant-neurologist, SL Raheja hospital, Mahim-A Fortis Associate and Dr Rima Chaudhari, consultant-neurology, Fortis hospital, Mulund)

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