Could COVID-19 cause dementia?

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Kinsey McManus, a Program Director, Alzheimer’s Association Desert Southwest Chapter talked with us about the Alzheimer’s Association’s research into the connection between COVID-19 and dementia. Could COVID-19 cause it? Also, dementia patients have a greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

People living with dementia have a higher risk for COVID-19 McManus said. They are looking at how COVID-19 could be a potential risk factor for developing dementia later in life. McManus said COVID-19 has some clear neurological symptoms that are associated with the virus. Some examples of that or smell and taste, increased risk for strokes, and people experiencing brain hemorrhages. There’s also a lack of oxygen to the brain associated with COVID-19. Brain injury is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other dementia. They worry that COVID-19 can be a brain injury that could potentially create a risk for dementia.

We ask her if it’s the virus itself or if it is the body’s response to the virus. She explains to us what it could be and the reasons for that. She said it also could be the body‘s response to COVID-19 because the virus is so new. McManus also explains that after similar viruses in the past,  these are reports of cognitive functioning, behavior changes, and more. They are still not quite sure why. The Alzheimer’s Association is supporting an international study that looks at people who were hospitalized for COVID-19. About 40 countries have signed on to be part of this. They will be looking at people who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 and “subsequently discharge”.  Over 6, 9, and 18 months, they will be looking at what implications it has had on the brain. They hope to find out what COVID-19 is doing to the brain, directly and indirectly.

The brain is so complicated and complex compared to the other organs in the body McManus explained. She said that they have been really working hard to understand the brain and understand dementia. They still do not have a cure for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. They are hopeful due to some recent breakthroughs. She suspects they will see some more preventative measures before they find a cure.

Kinsey McManus, a Program Director, Alzheimer's Association Desert Southwest Chapter

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