COVID-19 infection and its impact on brain functioning

Published: May 14, 2020 2:30:46 PM

While the n-COVID 19 being new to the human kind, its effect and severity on the overall health has not been recorded yet, but until now people with chronic ailments like asthma, renal disorders, heart problem, and the geriatric population has been asked to follow extra precautions.

COVID-19 infection, coronavirus, brain functioning, lockdown, depression, neurological manifestations, Dr. Jaideep Bansal, Neurology, Saroj Super Specialty Hospital, Have a good night sleep. (good sleep hygiene). Convert your fear into courage, poison into medicine and unlock your compassion and wisdom to help prevent the effects of stress on your immunity.

By Dr. Jaideep Bansal

Nation assisting in following social distancing measures and maintaining the lockdown, some of them may have complications and may be hesitant to go to hospitals. Being at home, many may be new to take up the household chores.

Amidst the COVID 19 pandemic the whole Nation is under lockdown, and looking at the current situation of increasing cases, the situation is likely to continue. While most of the professionals have been instructed to work from home, devoid of a workplace ambience can cause depression and anxiety among many and those with pre-existing conditions may be at an added risk to infections. We are very well aware that social distancing is the only proven measure to break the infection chain in the present situation, people also need to keep themselves engaged in fruitful activities in order to keep their mental health intact.

While the n-COVID 19 being new to the human kind, its effect and severity on the overall health has not been recorded yet, but until now people with chronic ailments like asthma, renal disorders, heart problem, and the geriatric population has been asked to follow extra precautions. Though the potential of the Corona virus can affect any organ or body part should be considered omnipresent, as it appears. While various study also shows the potential impact of the COVID on the neurons, putting those with neurological ailments at an elevated risk.

The Vulnerable neurological manifestations

It is necessary to be aware of the possibility of various neurological manifestations of Covid-19, both during acute illness as well as the possibility of long-term effects, or on people with pre-existing conditions. People with pre-existing conditions or undergoing treatment for epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, or those who have had history of stroke attack, may be highly vulnerable to elevated symptoms like seizures, loss of steadiness, dizziness, impaired consciousness, cognitive impairment or even loss of smell and taste.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that generally affects overall body movements in people over 60 years of age, (occurring a decade earlier in familial cases). It usually begins with symptoms which are barely noticeable like tremors in hands or inability to execute simple coordinated movements like signing or eating food, face may show little or no expression, or arms may not swing while walking and soft or slurred speech. These symptoms may be enough to diagnose PD by an expert neurologist / or a neurosurgeon performing DBS surgeries. Patients affected by advance state Parkinson’s demonstrate varying degrees of stiffness of body, slowness or difficulty in initiating movements or freezing.

Alzheimer’s disease, also known as forgetfulness, is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away and die and infection of COVID poses a greater threat. The early signs of the disease may be forgetting recent conversation and work. As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will experience memory impairment and loss the ability to carry out day to day activities.

Huntington’s Disease is a rare genetic disorder which causes cognitive and psychiatric impairment due to progressive degeneration of the neurons in the brain. This disease has a great impact on the person’s functional abilities and is usually symptomatic after 30 years of age. With wide spectrum of symptoms, varying from person to person, it causes, movement cognitive and psychiatric disorders.

Movement disorders show involuntary jerks, muscle problems (dystonia), difficulty in speaking and may also affect the voluntary movements.

Symptoms of cognitive disorders include lack of preservation of behavior, difficulty in organizing tasks, learning new words and information, and lack of impulse control.

Psychiatric disorders – Depression may be the initial symptoms, but if accompanied with other symptoms like irritability, sadness, insomnia, social withdrawal may confirm the condition. Other disorders may include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Mania or Bipolar Disorder.

Taking care of the prone

The geriatric population is highly susceptible to COVID infection pertaining to both physical and social reasons. As we age our immune system also depletes gradually and likely for this reason any elderly catching corona virus is more vulnerable to sail through the ill-effects of the virus. While the body’s fighting capacity would have reduced by this age (in comparison to others), in addition to the existing co-morbidities like diabetes, respiratory ailments like asthma, COPD chronic Bronchitis etc, heart ailments among many other chronic ailments, elderly population are more susceptible as well as less prone to recover.

Healthy diet and sleep hygiene – Healthy well-balanced diet and being physically active should be your aim. Stress activates your adrenal glands to release cortisol, increasing your appetite, Stress also impedes hunger hormones, like ghrelin, that regulate your appetite. Unfortunately, that anxiety-induced hunger can have long-term consequences for your waistline. When you’re under stress, you often feel out of control and overwhelmed — and that can leak into your eating habits. Focus on the real issue, think long-term and Get mindful. Have a good night sleep. (good sleep hygiene). Convert your fear into courage, poison into medicine and unlock your compassion and wisdom to help prevent the effects of stress on your immunity.

Let’s learn to cope with our new reality of being in this virtual life that includes virtual work, virtual consultations, virtual exercise lesson and virtual family and friend meets. It is normal to feel sad, stressed, scared during such a crisis. Remember, it is a physical lockdown for everyone, not a lockdown of your mind and soul, it is not a lockdown of help, hope and kindness.

(The author is HOD & Consultant Neurology, Saroj Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal.)

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