How COVID Hurts the Brain
The brain is our most protected organ in our bodies. The skull protects the brain from outside forces, while the blood-brain barrier protects it from threats inside the body. The blood-brain barrier acts as an additional boundary between the blood circulating and the space of the brain. The barrier is very selective and only allows certain substances to cross the bloodstream into the brain.
While primarily a respiratory disease, COVID-19 can also lead to neurological problems. Patients with COVID-19 have experienced multiple symptoms regarding the brain. These symptoms widely range from confusion to life-threatening strokes. Patients in their 30s and 40s are suffering potentially life-changing neurological issues due to strokes. Although there isn’t a concrete answer as to why the brain may be harmed, researchers have their theories.
While some patients may lose taste and smell, others have trouble thinking clearly, sometimes referred to as “brain fog.” Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 but continue to have cognitive problems, including brain fog, can be evaluated by a neuropsychologist at Ochsner’s Brain Health Center.
Neuropsychological assessments will help you understand whether you are having significant cognitive trouble and the right treatment pathway. (Should you address anxiety, focus on cognitive strategies or something else?)
Cases around the world show that patients with COVID-19 can have a variety of conditions related to the brain, including:
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of smell and taste
- Trouble focusing
- Changes in behavior
Researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stoke (NINDS) have now conducted the first in-depth examination of human brain tissue samples from people who died after contracting COVID-19. Their published findings suggest that COVID-19’s many neurological symptoms are likely explained by the body’s widespread inflammatory response to infection and associated blood vessel injury, not by infection of the brain tissue itself.
Clearly, more research will be needed. As we learn more about the ways COVID-19 affects the body, we will continue to learn over the next several years about its affects on the brain.
If you or a family member is starting to display neurological complications, you should contact your medical provider immediately. Continue to take all necessary steps to keep yourself safe from viruses, including wearing face masks and frequently washing your hands.