Some COVID-19 patients are developing neurological conditions that are potentially life-altering or even life-threatening. Mental confusion, brain inflammation, stroke, and other neurological complications have been reported from most countries with substantial COVID-19 outbreaks.
Fever, cough, and difficulty breathing are the most widely recognized symptoms of COVID-19. In recent weeks, a growing collection of research has documented a range of unexpected symptoms such as diarrhea, loss of smell, delirium, and skin rashes.
Evidence is also mounting that COVID-19 can cause longer-term health issues beyond respiratory damage, including the onset of diabetes, weakened heart muscles, and kidney damage. Furthermore, a number of neurological complications are emerging in coronavirus patients, such as brain inflammation and stroke.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool have reviewed and analyzed COVID-19 studies focused on neurological complications from countries across the globe.
Overall, the researchers found nearly 1,000 documented cases where COVID-19 patients had developed brain, spinal cord, or nerve disease. Study co-author Dr. Suzannah Lant expects that there are many more similar cases.
“Whilst these complications are relatively uncommon, the huge numbers of COVID-19 cases globally mean the overall number of patients with neurological problems is likely to be quite large,” said Dr. Lant.
One of the most serious complications linked to COVID-19 is encephalitis, which is inflammation and swelling of the brain. Study co-author Dr. Ava Easton is the CEO of the Encephalitis Society.
“It is really important that doctors around the world recognize that COVID-19 can cause encephalitis and other brain problems, which often have potentially devastating, life-changing consequences for patients,” said Dr. Easton.
Study senior author Tom Solomon is a professor of Neurology and the director of the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool.
“Although such patients are being seen everywhere the virus occurs, many of the reports are lacking in detail,” said Professor Solomon.
“We are currently pooling data from individual patients all around the world, so that we can get a more complete picture. Doctors who would like to contribute patients to this analysis can contact us via the Global COVID-Neuro Network website.”
The study is published in the journal The Lancet Neurology.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer