In addition to respiratory symptoms, COVID-19 patients experience neurological symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, depression, and cognitive issues that can last for months or years after other symptoms have resolved.
Many studies have found cases of inflammation referred to as vasculitis, or blood vessel damage, in the brains and central nervous systems(CNS) of COVID-19 patients.
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The majority of cases of CNS vasculitis have been associated with elderly patients who have severe COVID-19, but in a report published July 28, 2021 in the journal Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation, a multidisciplinary team of physicians at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine describe the first case of a young, healthy adult who was infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and also experienced CNS lymphocytic vasculitis.
In mid-March 2020, the 26-year-old woman was diagnosed with COVID-19. Her symptoms began mildly but after 2 to 3 weeks, symptoms escalated to trouble moving her left foot and weakness on the left side of her body. She had no headaches and her mental condition or cognition remained unchanged.
However, magnetic resonance imaging revealed multiple lesions in the right frontoparietal region of the brain, which is involved in left-side motor control and sensation. A biopsy revealed CNS lymphocytic vasculitis — an inflammatory or swollen state of the brain and spine’s blood vessels.
The woman received a series of corticosteroid treatments and was started on a long-term immunosuppressive medication; after six months, the lesions had significantly decreased in size and no new lesions had formed. She is still receiving immunosuppressive treatment.
“This patient was first confirmed case of COVID-19 CNS vasculitis, confirmed by biopsy, in a young healthy patient with otherwise mild COVID-19 infection,” said corresponding senior author Jennifer Graves.
“Her case tells researchers and clinicians to consider these serious potential brain complications even in young patients and those with minor initial Covid-19 infections.”
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