Neurological Complications of COVID-19 Infection

Neurological Complications of COVID-19 Infection

Since the very start of the SARS-Corona virus infection pandemic in December of 2019, the medical community was intrigued by a set of symptoms that set this infection apart from others. The conundrum of strange presenting complaints like inability to smell (anosmia), loss of sense of taste (ageusia), and intense, acute, unexplained headaches acquired the ominous harbinger status of this potentially fatal disease. Anosmia and ageusia definitely point to the involvement of the cranial nerves.

Our knowledge of this virus and its ubiquitously pervasive nature has considerably expanded since then. Here, I aim to summarize some of the devastating neurological effects of the Corona virus for the awareness of treating healthcare professionals as well as the lay public. The fundamental concept that underlies all of these extra-pulmonary (outside the lungs) symptoms is the multifarious antigenicity or the virus’s ability to mimic the structural framework of various organs and similarly the immunological components of the human nervous system. The consequent diseases are understood to be autoimmune in nature.

  • Brain Stroke: The most common serious neurological complication of the Covid infection. The possible mechanisms are thrombo-embolic events closely associated with a widespread phenomenon of the formation of micro-clots in the small arteries or veins of the brain, thereby cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain tissue. This results in paralysis of the face or extremities, loss of speech, or, in extreme events, death of the infected individual due to severe swelling of the brain or a serious brain hemorrhage. An autoimmune inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis) in the brain.

  • Cerebral Venous Thrombosis: Brain has a network of pipelines to drain the de-oxygenated blood back to the heart for purification and re-circulation. Covid can cause big or small clots inside these veins leading to a damming up of blood in the brain, causing bleeding in the brain, fatal swelling of the brain and, of course, the paralyzing consequences of brain damage.

  • Seizures: Abnormal jerky movements of the body along with loss of consciousness, known in common parlance as fits, are due to abrupt electrical shut-down of brain circuits.

  • Guillain -Barre Syndrome: An eponymous disorder of peripheral nerves and nerve radicles (Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy) can cause paralysis of the face, extremities and, most importantly, of the breathing muscles requiring mechanical ventilation.

  • Polymyositis: An autoimmune indiscriminate inflammation and weakness of all the muscle groups of the body consequently affecting adversely the ability to stand, walk, speak ,swallow and, worse still, to breathe.
  • Myasthenia: Covid autoimmune disorder can involve the neuromuscular junction transmission, thereby obstructing passage of commanding signals from nerves to muscles.

  • Critical Illness Neuropathy and Critical Illness Myopathy: These are debilitating disorders of the nerves and muscles of the body, often witnessed in any illness requiring a long-term ICU stay, and the Covid infection certainly has acquired this dubious distinction in the present times of the pandemic.

  • Brain Death: Ultimately, any condition, including the Covid infection, that causes oxygen and blood-flow deprivation to the brain for a prolonged duration will result in a coma, a persistent vegetative state of the body, or the ultimate event, demise of the individual. However, notwithstanding the ubiquitous and variegated nature of these Covid-related complications, over 99% of affected individuals survive, left with a variable degree of disabilities and deficits that can be partially or fully treated with a combination of physiotherapy and certain neuro-immunological medications.
Please visit or contact Dr. Arun Sharma at for more information and treatment of the neurological complications arising from the Covid-19 virus.