Tricks‌ ‌to‌ ‌identify‌ ‌and‌ ‌fix‌ ‌the‌ ‌neurological‌ ‌impact‌ ‌of‌ ‌‘long‌ ‌Covid-19’‌ ‌on‌ ‌your‌ ‌body‌ ‌

It is being observed that mental health issues are a consequence of long Covid-19, but how is it possible to identify and fix them? Here’s all you need to know.
covid-19 and mental health
The neurological impact of Covid-19 is much more than you know. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Dhanashri Chonkar Published: 13 Aug 2021, 09:30 am IST
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Are you experiencing short-term memory loss? Do you feel confused, unable to concentrate? Do you feel agitated with the slightest provocation? 

Well, then these are very common neurological symptoms post the covid-19 infection. In the early months of the pandemic, doctors struggled to keep patients breathing, and focused mainly on treating damage to the lungs and the circulatory system. But even then, evidence for neurological effects was accumulating. Some people hospitalized with covid-19 were experiencing delirium – they were confused, disorientated, anxious, depressed, experienced Insomnia and were agitated. Not only this, but some experienced these cognitive impairments months after they made full recovery from the infection. The rate of cognitive impairment was much higher than expected.

Also, read: Can mental health affect your heart health?

Short and long-term impact of covid-19 on the brain

Covid-19 can damage the brain directly by causing encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) of any severity. This itself can have devastating effects on the patient. It can also cause a stroke in any age group. Plus, it can cause systemic inflammation that can also lead to indirect neurological damage. Last year, we found that several patients with covid-19 suffered strokes. Earlier, people with co-morbidities and over the age of 65 were more at risk, but now we see evidence that even younger individuals are at seven times the risk of suffering from a stroke during or after covid-19.

covid-19 and mental health
Covid-19 has led to an increase in the cases of depression and anxiety. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Short-term impact of Covid-19 on the brain
  • Encephalitis of any severity, leaving temporary or permanent residual damage on the cognitive and other brain function 
  • Acute ischemic brain strokes – seen in all age groups of patients with or without comorbidities 
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) – covid-19 being a viral infection, GBS is known to occur after any viral infection 

Also, read: World Organ Donation Day: How has Covid-19 impacted organ donation?

Long-term impact of Covid-19 on the brain

Cognitive impairment was noticed in patients with covid-19 infection, which was reversible or partially reversible, and lasted up to 4-7 months. A lot of research is needed to see the long-term effect on nervous tissues. A long-term Italian study reveals that such patients who had no symptoms of cognitive impairment during infection developed them after six months from recovery. Nearly 37.4 % of cases were having cognitive deficit and hyposmia (decreased sense of smell). 

Apart from this, people have been reporting brain fog and some longer-term headaches they hadn’t experienced before. That seems to be a pretty core phenomenon in patients who have prolonged covid-19 symptomatology after recovering from the primary infection. 

Now, there are hypotheses that say, the neurological symptoms might be a result of overstimulation of the immune system. So, these scenarios require entirely different treatments. More studies need to be conducted to further establish the neurological impact of covid-19. Having said that, people wonder how to identify the neurological impact of covid-19, or rather differentiate it from other brain-related issues.

covid-19 and mental health
You must take care of your mental health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Identifying neurological symptoms of Covid-19

Some of the symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Memory, lack of concentration or sleep problems
  • Muscle pain or headache
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Depression or Anxiety
  • Persistent postural dizziness
  • Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities
Reducing the impact

A one-size-fits-all approach to treat long-covid will not work. Therefore, a holistic approach is a must. One should refrain from following trending solutions claiming to fix all such symptoms. A personalized assessment and tailored nutritional management along with physical and psychological coaching are needed to help faster recovery. To lessen its impact, people need to do all things that will help in improving brain health

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  • Try yoga and meditation to improve focus & attention after consulting your doctor
  • Focus your mind by dealing with the things that are distracting you 
  • Eat well and stay active
  • Speak to your doctor and learn effective brain exercises 
  • Avoid alcohol and refrain from self-medication
  • Avoid any medications that might cloud the way your brain works

Moreover, it is also important that we create and encourage a conducive work environment for everyone recovering from post-covid symptoms. Employers must encourage programs to build individuals’ knowledge and confidence to manage their symptoms. The bottom line is that early assessment along with personalized monitoring and management is essential for all people with long-covid symptoms.

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About the Author

Dr Dhanashri Chonkar, Consultant Neurology, Fortis Hospital Mulund ...Read More

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