Experts say COVID-19 can affect your brain

Experts say COVID-19 can affect your brain

Whether you’ve had COVID-19 or not, you’ve likely heard that one of the telltale symptoms of the virus that nudges people to seek a COVID test is the loss of taste and smell. In fact, on average, about 39% of people diagnosed with the coronavirus lose their sense of smell, taste, or both, and up to 80% in one series.

It turns out this lack of temporary and specific sensory function is due to the virus itself reaching the area of the brain responsible for the sense of smell, affecting the nerves communicating with your cerebrum. If COVID can do that to your brain, you may be wondering what else is it doing to arguably one of your most necessary organs?

Scientists have been working tirelessly to understand as much as possible about the coronavirus, and in doing so, made an unfortunate, but important, discovery of small, leaking blood vessels in the brain. What this means: Your body’s inflammatory response to COVID-19 may indicate injury to very small vessels in the brain and could in fact cause lasting brain impairment.

“We are seeing many COVID patients suffering neurological symptoms that are similar to brain damage, such as forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, and an inability to organize thoughts,” says Dr. Ziad Darkhabani, interventional neurologist at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay, Wis. “So, while your brain recovers from the nerve blockage that causes loss of taste and smell, there’s the chance it may not recover otherwise, or it may take a long while to get back to normal function.”

There are a couple steps you can take to help guard yourself against COVID-19:

  • “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the key to preventing lasting neurological issues lies in COVID-19 prevention,” explains Dr. Darkhabani. “This includes social distancing, wearing a mask, excellent hand hygiene, limiting your time in stores, and so on.” And when it’s your turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Darkhabani says, “You should consider the vaccine after discussion with your primary care physician.”
  • Prevent having a COVID-19-related stroke when you keep your Afib in check, quit or refrain from smoking, limit or avoid alcohol, eat heart-healthy foods and exercise regularly.

If you’re concerned about your stroke risk, you can take this free online quiz to learn more.

You shouldn’t let COVID-19 keep you from seeking the health care you need. Read how Advocate Aurora Health is taking additional steps to keep you safe with its Safe Care Promise.

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About the Author

Brianna Wunsch
Brianna Wunsch

Brianna Wunsch, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator for Advocate Aurora Health with a BA in public affairs from University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. In her free time, Brianna enjoys living an active lifestyle through biking, hiking and working out at the gym, but even more than that, she especially loves spending quality time with her two cats (Arthur and Loki), son and husband.