Covid-19 – are we facing a secondary pandemic of neurological disease?
As each week passes, it is becoming increasingly clear that coronavirus can trigger a huge range of neurological problems.
In March 2020, a number of patients were admitted to intensive care at Strasbourg University Hospital. Within days, every single patient in the ICU had Covid-19 – and it was not just their breathing difficulties that alarmed medics.
Doctors at the hospital published a small study in the New England Journal of Medicine documenting the neurological symptoms in their Covid-19 patients, ranging from cognitive difficulties to confusion. All are signs of “encephalopathy” (the general term for damage to the brain) – a trend that researchers in Wuhan had noticed in coronavirus patients there in February.
Now, more than 300 studies from around the world have found a prevalence of neurological abnormalities in Covid-19 patients, including mild symptoms like headaches, loss of smell (anosmia) and tingling sensations (arcoparasthesia), up to more severe outcomes such as aphasia (inability to speak), strokes and seizures.
Estimates of exact prevalence vary, but it seems that roughly 50% of patients diagnosed with Sars-CoV-2 – the virus responsible for causing the illness Covid-19 – have experienced neurological problems.
The extent and severity of these neurological issues has flown largely under the radar but with further studies taking place around the world, could we be facing a secondary pandemic of neurological disease?