Coronavirus cases continue to soar around the world. In the UK, more than 165,000 infections and over 26,000 deaths have been reported. There is mounting evidence of patients experiencing a certain symptom with over a third of patients displaying this warning sign.
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In the vast majority of cases of COVID-19, respiratory infections which cause fever, aches, tiredness, sore throat, cough and, in more severe cases, shortness of breath and respiratory distress.
COVID-19 infects cells outside of the respiratory tract and causes a wide range of symptoms from gastrointestinal disease to heart damage and blood clotting disorders.
Studies have reported over a third of COVID-19 patients show neurological symptoms.
What are neurological symptoms?
Several studies have identified the presence of neurological symptoms in COVID-19 cases.
Some of these studies are case reports where symptoms are observed in individuals.
Reports have shown COVID-19 patients suffering from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder where the immune system responds to an infection and ends up mistakenly attacking nerve cells, resulting in muscle weakness and eventually paralysis.
What is Guillain-Barre syndrome?
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare but serious autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system.
This leads to weakness, numbness and tingling and eventually possible paralysis.
The precise cause of the syndrome is unknown, however according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about two-thirds of people with Guillain-Barre develop it soon after they’ve been sick with diarrhoea or a respiratory infection such as COVID-19.
This suggests that an improper immune response to the previous illness triggers the disorder.
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Other case studies have described severe COVID-19 encephalitis which is brain inflammation and swelling and it’s also been reported of healthy young people suffering with a stroke.
Larger studies from China and France have also investigated the prevalence of neurological disorders in COVID-19 patients.
The studies showed that 36 percent of patients had neurological symptoms.
Many of these were mild and include headaches or dizziness that could be caused by a robust immune response.
Other more specific and severe symptoms were also seen including loss of smell or taste, muscle weakness, stroke, seizure and hallucinations.
It was also reported that COVID-19 infection results in a very strong response by the immune system.
This immune response may directly cause neurological disorders in the form of Guillain-Barre syndrome.
But brain inflammation might also indirectly cause neurological damage such as brain swelling.
The syndrome is also associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
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