24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
(361)575-0611
(800)421-8825
Fax: (361)578-5500

Medical Disorders
Resources
Basic InformationLookupsLatest News
Coronavirus Deaths in Nursing Homes Climbing AgainGet Dizzy When Standing Up? It Could Be Risk Factor for DementiaLevels of Anxiety, Addiction, Suicidal Thoughts Are Soaring in the PandemicWhat Was More Deadly for New Yorkers – COVID-19 or the 1918 Flu?Sweden's No-Lockdown Policy Didn't Achieve 'Herd Immunity'U.S. Coronavirus Death Tally Hits New High for SummerPfizer's COVID Vaccine Shows 'Robust' Results in Early TrialFrequent COVID Tests Key to College Reopening: ExpertsMany Community Outbreaks of COVID Traced to Restaurants, BarsPut the Brakes on Driving After a ConcussionStrict, Costly Measures Needed to Reopen Schools: StudyCOVID-19 Risk Up to 7 Times Higher for Young VapersAnother COVID Hazard: False InformationHospitals Full, Doctors Treated Her Severe COVID-19 at HomeFDA Approves First Oral Drug for Spinal Muscular AtrophyCOVID-19 Fears Stop Americans From Seeking Help for Heart EmergenciesAHA News: What Do Heart Patients Need to Know About COVID-19 Now?Have Diabetes? Don't Lose Sight of Danger to Your EyesBlood Test Might Spot Most Dangerous COVID-19 CasesAs Schools Reopen, Report Shows 97,000 U.S. Kids Infected With COVID in Late JulyWhat Parents Need to Know About Teens and ConcussionsBaby's Meningitis Case Highlights Growing Danger of Antibiotic ResistanceAs in Adults, Minority Kids Hit Hardest by COVID-19Simple Test Shows Which Face Masks Are BestBeware of Hand Sanitizers Containing MethanolWhat Athletes Should Know About COVID-19, Heart Damage and Working OutCOVID-19 Causing More Stress in America Than Other Nations: SurveyWill Your Kid Play School Sports This Fall? Here's Some Guidance on Doing It SafelyScientists Call for Broader Use of Faster COVID TestsTwo Common Nutrients Might Keep Vertigo at BayPeople Are Dying, Going Blind After Drinking Hand Sanitizer, CDC WarnsMore Social Media Use, More Fake COVID NewsSkip the 'Maskne,' Not the MaskObesity Ups Odds for Severe COVID-19, But Age MattersSeven States Join Pact to Speed Coronavirus TestingStudy Casts Doubt on Value of Cholesterol DrugsCOVID-19 Fears Had Sick, Injured Americans Avoiding ERsCancer Diagnoses Plunge as Americans Avoid Screening During PandemicMysterious Paralyzing Illness in Kids Is Set to Return, CDC WarnsMany Older Americans Staying Strong in the PandemicCoronavirus Cases Now Climbing in the MidwestCould the First Drug That Slows Arthritis Be Here?Schools Can Reopen Safely If Precautions in Place, Australian Study ShowsFace Masks, Yes, But Don't Forget Hand-Washing TooEven With PPE, Risk of COVID-19 Still High for Frontline WorkersCoronavirus Pandemic Becoming Far More Widespread, Birx SaysGuard Against Lyme Disease This SummerKids 'Efficient' Transmitters as COVID-19 Raced Through a Georgia Summer CampCollege Students Will Need COVID Tests Every 2-3 Days for Campus Safety: StudyAHA News: Sustained High Blood Pressure May Damage Brain Vessels
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

Diabetes

Terrifying Delirium Can Strike Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients

HealthDay News
by By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Jul 10th 2020

new article illustration

FRIDAY, July 10, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Intense breathing problems may be the most widely reported feature of COVID-19, but new research warns that coronavirus can also take aim at the brain.

Infection can trigger serious nerve damage, stroke, inflammation and even wild bouts of delirium.

In fact, a bizarre array of delusions plagued nearly a quarter of the 43 British COVID patients whose cases are detailed in a new report published July 8 in the journal Brain.

The cases were characterized as ranging from mild to critical, and included patients as young as 16 and as old as 85. All were handled at a London hospital this past April and May.

One patient was a middle-aged woman with no prior history of mental illness, who ended up hallucinating that lions and monkeys had entered her house. A 65-year-old woman -- with a two-year history of burgeoning dementia -- saw imaginary objects flying around her room and random people walking through her home.

Just last week, the New York Times published a report highlighting COVID-triggered cases of delirium among American patients. One patient -- a 31-year old woman -- said she had alternatively believed she was being burned alive one minute and turned into an ice sculpture the next.

Another patient in the Times report -- an elderly man on a ventilator -- said he thought he was being abducted and threatened, while confronting images of a rotating human head spiked with nails. And after just a short bout of sedation and intubation, a middle-aged male patient said he had visions of vampires, dead people, armed goons, and even the devil.

Exactly what is driving such flights of fancy in COVID patients?

In the context of coronavirus, "we do not yet know why delirium occurs," said Michael Zandi. He's a co-senior author of the British study, and an honorary associate professor at University College London Queen Square Institute of Neurology.

But Zandi noted that "delirium may arise from low blood oxygen levels, for instance due to respiratory issues."

A likely link to underlying lung problems was also cited by Dr. Larry Goldstein, chairman of the department of neurology and co-director of the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute at the University of Kentucky.

Inflammation, lack of oxygen may play a part

For one, Goldstein pointed out that all 10 of the patients who experienced delirium also had pulmonary infections. Still, in the context of COVID-19, he said delirium might be caused by "decreased blood oxygen, direct infection [and/or] drugs, among any number of other potential causes."

As to whether COVID-triggered delirium might result from direct damage to the brain, Zandi noted that brain scans and spinal fluid analysis results "were largely normal" among those who struggled with delirium, adding to the mystery.

Even so, Zandi stressed that delirium wasn't the only neurological complication confronting COVID patients. In fact, many of those who did not experience delirium did develop brain inflammation disorders, including encephalitis. In some cases, those disorders were the main feature of the COVID experience, sometimes absent serious respiratory illness.

In fact, 12 of the patients were diagnosed with brain inflammation, the British team noted. Three-quarters of this group (nine patients) were diagnosed with a rare, potentially fatal, and largely pediatric condition known as ADEM (acute disseminated encephalomyelitis).

In addition, eight COVID patients suffered a stroke, while another eight suffered nerve damage. Most of the nerve damage cases involved Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder that unfolds when the body's own immune system runs amok and starts to attack the patient's nervous system.

Given that the British team found no evidence of the coronavirus in the cerebrospinal fluid of their patients, that may offer a clue as to what's actually afoot. It could signal that COVID-related brain complications --whether inflammation or delirium -- are the product of an out-of-whack immune response.

Regardless, Zandi and his colleagues suggest that doctors should be vigilant for early signs of neurological trouble among their COVID patients, to intervene early and reduce the risk for long-term damage to the brain.

Could delirium during COVID infection lead to lasting trouble? Both Zandi and Goldstein said the jury is still out.

It all depends, said Goldstein. "Delirium can be transient, with no long-term consequences," he said. But he cautioned that it can also have long-lasting effects when brought on by something like a small stroke. The ultimate impact of COVID-induced bouts of delirium will require more research, he said.

Meanwhile, Zandi suggested that brain inflammation is more likely to complicate COVID recovery than delirium, though "we know that some elderly people who experience delirium have poor outcomes and accelerated decline in memory function. For now, we do not know the long-term outcome of delirium in COVID-19."

More information

There's more on COVID-19 symptoms at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.