Coronavirus May Give You These Two Horrific Side Effects

A recently published study finds that doctors might be missing these serious symptoms.

As scientists are able to compare more cases of coronavirus, they're coming to better understand all of the potential health complications that can come with it. And while the general understanding is that it is first and foremost a respiratory disease, a growing amount of research has found that other vital organs may be seriously affected by COVID-19—potentially permanently. A recent study adds evidence to the theory that the brain can be damaged by the virus, potentially creating horrific neurological side effects including memory loss and Alzheimer's disease.

The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, found that many patients had their troubling neurological symptoms overlooked as doctors fought to treat the seemingly more pressing symptoms affecting their lungs instead. "We are learning that a significant number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients have various degrees of brain impairment," the study authors state. "As a medical community, we need to monitor these patients over time as some of them may develop cognitive decline, attention deficit, brain fog, or Alzheimer's disease in the future."

Senior man looking at a calendar confused

One of the study's lead authors suggests that these findings should encourage physicians to change the way they approach new cases of COVID-19. "Doctors are worried about respiratory issues and people staying alive and so if they have neurological issues they sort of deal with them as secondary problems," Majid Fotuhi, MD, director of the NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Center told WDVM, a local Fox News affiliate.

Fotuhi suggests that there are three stages of brain damage that occur in patients, beginning with the now-infamous anosmia (loss of taste and smell) that about 80 percent of patients recover from without targeted treatment. The second involves inflammation of blood vessels, which can result in blood clots and stroke. The third is the resulting fallout of damage to blood vessels in the brain, which can lead to everything from confusion and disorientation to seizures and the development of Alzheimer's disease later in life.

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The study cites figures from related studies that support the notion that potentially serious brain damage could be related to coronavirus infections. One such study from Wuhan, China, found that 45 percent of severe COVID-19 patients experienced "marked neurological deficits." Another study from France posited that a shocking 84 percent of coronavirus patients admitted to the ICU showed "abnormalities on their neurological examination." They reported that 15 percent of patients who leave the ICU "have residual 'dysexecutive function,' which involves poor attention and difficulty with decision-making and controlling behavior."

To combat these dangerous neurological side effects of COVID-19, Fotuhi recommends that doctors consider MRIs for incoming patients showcasing any neurological issues and educating survivors on their potential condition. "For those recovering from COVID-19, I recommend regular exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet, reducing stress, and improving sleep," he said. "These are critical ways patients can rejuvenate their brain and minimize having poor outcomes in the future." And for more on the ways COVID-19 goes beyond the lungs, check out Here's How Coronavirus Affects Your Body, From Your Head to Toes.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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