Experts are studying the potential connection between COVID-19 and the increased risk of Alzheimer’s. We know that Alzheimer’s affects brain functions. But could it be possible that COVID-19 infection would have the same effect on the brain? 03 Dec, 2021

At the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2021 in Denver, findings on COVID-19 being associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's have alarmed experts.

COVID-19 has affected millions of people worldwide, which is a huge problem. But what's more worrying is that the latest findings suggest that COVID-19 can raise the incidence of Alzheimer's. Experts said that the problem could be another pandemic catastrophe in the making.

To better understand, we'll review various studies on how COVID-19 could be associated with Alzheimer's.

The connection between Alzheimer's and COVID-19

Every year, millions of people around the world are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Even after years of research, experts have not found any cure. It’s a considerable healthcare problem that remains unsolved.

But apart from Alzheimer’s and dementia, another healthcare crisis is looming that could worsen the current problems with COVID-19.

Experts are studying the potential connection between COVID-19 and the increased risk of Alzheimer’s. We know that Alzheimer’s affects brain functions. But could it be possible that COVID-19 infection would have the same effect on the brain?

This link is now being reviewed by researchers, but there’s no strong evidence confirming the possibility so far. But some studies have looked at COVID-19 patients and the cognitive deficits they’ve experienced months after contracting the infection.

Some experts suggest that COVID-19 could boost the risk of cognitive disorders. If this is true, we could indeed be gazing at another healthcare crisis.

COVID-19 and The Impact on Cognition

Based on one study, some COVID-19 patients experienced neurological effects, including brain fog, dizziness, and confusion. But it’s not enough to conclude that the virus could trigger Alzheimer's disease — so several studies continued.

A notable recent study by Thomas Wisniewski and his colleagues at New York University found that hallmarks of Alzheimer's, such as loss of smell and blood biological markers, are present in some COVID-19 patients.

Another study on 300 COVID-19 patients from Argentina has related findings. Roughly 3 and 6 months after getting infected with COVID, more than 50% of the patients experienced persistent forgetfulness. One in four had additional cognitive problems, including language and executive dysfunction problems.

Researchers of this subject start to see the connection between cognition problems and COVID-19 patients months after contracting the infection.

Meanwhile, another research at the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome aims to understand the neurological effects of hyper inflammation, a common factor in Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s, and COVID-19.

Despite many studies, it remains unclear how a viral infection, like COVID-19, can lead to the effects of cognitive damage similar to that of Alzheimer's disease.

As earlier studies pointed out that COVID patients experienced neurological problems, experts said that if a COVID or long COVID patient experienced brain damage, the blood would have the same biological markers that people with brain damage due to Alzheimer's have.

What We Know So Far From Research

To this day, teams of researchers worldwide are studying hard to find out the correlation between neurological complications related to COVID-19 and the increased risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Here are the things that we know so far:

1. According to genetic research, specific genes that increase the person's risk of severe COVID-19 also raise the risk of Alzheimer's. PET scans on the brains of some COVID-19 survivors reveal that the brains go through virus-related changes similar to what people with Alzheimer's experience.

2. The effects of the COVID-19 virus vary by age. For people over 60, forgetfulness happens often. It's also a common early symptom of Alzheimer's that usually lasts for several months.

3. Research shared that people affected by COVID-19 tend to forget names, phone numbers, and where they place things.
In a Norwegian study on mild COVID cases, more than 1 in 10 patients have experienced memory problems eight months after getting infected.

4. Several Americans experience cognitive issues after getting infected by the COVID-19 virus. Even if the cognition problem is mild, it could pose a significant problem as people contracted by COVID-19 account for millions.

5. One of the limitations of the current research is that it could take many years to confirm whether COVID-19 survivors have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's. Researchers will have to confirm when survivors reach the old age of 60 or 70.

Promising therapies to combat Alzheimer's and possibly COVID-19

Researchers are conducting clinical trials on GM-CSF (Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony Stimulating Factor), marketed as Leukine.

It's a newly developed treatment for Alzheimer's that experts believe could also potentially protect the brain from COVID infection. Trials are conducted using a mouse model.

GM-CSF boosts the body's natural immune response by activating the phagocytes. Phagocytes are cells that protect the body by eating up harmful foreign particles, such as the amyloid and the amyloid-beta peptides present in people living with Alzheimer’s.

This new treatment could help solve the problem with Alzheimer's and dementia. Also, GM-CSF can keep the cells from dying. It has other benefits that researchers continue to study on, so we might get updates soon.

Conclusion

People need more confirmed data to prove that COVID-19 can trigger a spike in the cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s. We know thus far that the COVID-19 virus has some effects on the nervous system. Months after infection, a person may experience cognitive deficits, such as forgetfulness, a prevalent early symptom of Alzheimer's and dementia.

Experts continue to study the connection between cognition problems after COVID-19 infection and the increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. So, we’ll have to wait for new findings.

The best thing to do for now is to protect yourself by strengthening your immunity. If your immunity is weak, you become susceptible to infections and diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

So pay attention to your health. Protect yourself against infection and illnesses through good nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep.

Also, don’t forget to disinfect by washing your hands often and wearing a protective mask when going out.0

FAQs

1. Is it possible for COVID-19 to cause confusion?

COVID-19 can cause confusion, forgetfulness, and other memory problems based on research. Unfortunately, experts can’t pinpoint the connection between COVID-19 and the increased risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s, as research is still ongoing. But reports did confirm that some COVID-19 survivors had experienced cognitive deficits, including confusion.

2. Does COVID-19 affect the brain?

The COVID-19 virus attacks the respiratory system, but researchers discovered that the virus could affect the brain. Studies show that many COVID-19 survivors experience persistent cognitive problems months after getting infected. The effects of infection vary by age, but forgetfulness is common in people over 60.

3. Can COVID-19 cause other neurological disorders?

As of the moment, there’s no strong evidence that COVID-19 can cause neurological disorders. Researchers are seeking out if it can increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

4. What is brain fog caused by COVID-19?

Typical symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell, and tiredness. But reports revealed that some COVID-19 patients also develop neurological symptoms, including brain fog.

Indications of brain fog include problems with memory, forgetfulness, confusion, lack of mental clarity, headaches, and poor attention to detail.


Syed Rizvi


Syed has years of experience dealing with people, understanding their needs, and helping them find solutions to their problems.
As a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP), Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professional (CMDCP), Syed is committed to working closely with Senior and their family knowing what is it like for individuals facing a challenging time, at times groping in dark trying to figure what is the appropriate next step or care level for their unique situation.
Syed and Senex Memory Advisors are fully committed to working closely with families in creating a personalized, step-by-step process memory care plan at zero cost.

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