COVID-19 could increase brain & neurological disorders

Research by psychiatrists at the University of Oxford has revealed that six months after testing positive for Covid-19, one in eight people are diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric illness, adding significant weight to the emerging evidence of Covid-19’s lasting impact on the brain. When records of people who had pre-existing neurological or psychiatric conditions were reviewed, this increased to 1 in 3 people.

Using the medical records of 236,379 people in the US – some who were treated in hospital and some who were not – researchers found that 1 in 9 people with mild COVID-19 illnesses later went on to be diagnosed with conditions including depression and stroke.

Researchers investigated neurological and psychiatric conditions resulting from a COVID-19 infection in 14 outcomes occurring between 1 and 180 days after initial infection. This included:

  • intracranial haemorrhage
  • ischaemic stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • nerve, nerve root, and plexus disorders
  • myoneural junction and muscle disease
  • encephalitis
  • dementia
  • psychotic, mood, or anxiety disorder
  • substance use disorder
  • insomnia

Research showed that diagnosis of stroke, intracranial haemorrhage, dementia, and psychotic disorders were commoner after COVID-19 than after flu or other respiratory infections. However, it was not clear if there was a similar finding for Parkinson’s or Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Generally, analysis of the patient’s records showed that those who were hospitalised as a result of COVID-19 – and particularly those who had encephalopathy or brain damage – were at greater risk of developing complications in the months after initial infection.

The researchers, led by Paul Harrison form the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford state that, “Large-scale, robust, and longer-term data are needed if the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on brain health are to be identified and quantified.”

COVID-19 is a neurotropic virus, which means it can enter nerve cells – along with viruses like rabies and Epstein-Barr viruses. These kind of viruses can cause brain swelling and paralysis.

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