Coronavirus symptoms: The two neurological symptoms which could trigger a brain disorder

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People with COVID-19, can experience a variety of symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these symptoms are typically a fever or chills, a cough, fatigue and shortness of breath. Many patients are reporting neurological problems and an altered mental state with doctors warning of a potential brain disorder caused by COVID-19. What are the two neurological symptoms caused by COVID-19 which has seen an increase in cases?

Launched in March in the UK and extended to the US and Sweden, the COVID Symptom Study app asks participants to log their health and any new potential symptoms of COVID-19 on a daily basis.

The app has had more than four million users which represents the largest study of its kind in the world.

Although continuous cough, fever and loss of smell are usually highlighted as the three key symptoms of COVID-19, data gathered from app users shows that people can experience a wide range of different symptoms including headaches, muscle pains, fatigue, diarrhoea, confusion, loss of appetite, shortness of breath and more.

The progression and outcomes also vary significantly between people, ranging from mild flu-like symptoms or a simple rash to severe or fatal disease.

In terms of confusion, data from the COVID Symptom Study app shows that patients with coronavirus frequently suffer from delirium, a state of acute confusion, and disorientation.

Worryingly, with many COVID-19 patients reporting confusion and delirium as symptoms, doctors are now warning of rare but serious brain disorders which are triggered by even mild cases of COVID-19.

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In a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, a complication of COVID-19 of delirium was investigated.

The study noted: “COVID-19 is predominantly a respiratory disease. However, some cases exhibit other features including Central Nervous System symptoms.

“In the older adult, COVID-19 may present with atypical symptoms, including delirium and its complications. 

“Older people are at the greatest risk from COVID-19 and if infected, they may present delirium.

“Moreover, it is not exclusive to older people.

“Delirium is not inevitable; rather, it is preventable.

“An acute change in condition, behaviour, or mental status should prompt a delirium screen.

“As regards the treatment, it is advisable to use non-pharmacological interventions first where possible.

“Medication may be needed for patients with agitation where there is intractable distress or high risk to self/others.”

Dr Claire Steves, consultant geriatrician said: “Right at the beginning of the pandemic we noticed just anecdotally that patients with coronavirus were coming in with acute confusion and disorientation.” 

“The big question is if people with coronavirus are developing delirium because the virus has a huge effect on the body and the immune system, as we might see with other infections, or is there something more specific with coronavirus and the brain?”

Dr Steve suspects that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, may enter nerve cells in the brain, disrupting them and causing delirium symptoms. 

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