COVID-19 and Neurology - Dr. Vivek Karan

Dr Vivek Karan is a stroke and interventional neurologist who is currently working at Thumbay University Hospital, Ajman, and is the Head of the Department there. With over 12 years of clinical experience, Dr Vivek has worked in several parts of the world in multiple capacities. In conversation with You & I, he speaks about neurology and COVID-19, back fungus, and telemedicine.

Are there any significant neurological signs and symptoms in COVID-19 patients? Do they fade away after the recovery? And what are the chances of coping with those?
COVID -19 does not directly affect the brain or the nervous system; it affects the widespread immune response. The most common symptoms are loss of sense of smell, loss of taste, headaches, and muscle aches. In severe cases, there can be a state of confusion (delirium). Rare cases that of brain stroke, Guillain-Barré syndrome, transverse myelitis and necrotising Leukoencephalopathy are also being documented.

Fortunately, people with mild to moderate symptoms improve over few days to weeks. Based on the problem, individualistic approach may be required, but most important is the individuals’ positive mindset.

Has there been any increase in neurological problems witnessed in people because of the stress and anxiety that COVID-19 brought forward? How can one identify these and are there any measures that can be taken from home?
Yes, there has been an increase in the neurological problems witnessed, but it’s difficult to whether say it’s because of stress or anxiety. It’s mainly based on the body’s immune response. There is a lot of evidence showing the disease is more affecting people with a pre-existing condition like diabetes, lung disease etc.

Ensure your sugar levels are optimal and do daily home exercises for an hour to keep yourself fit, more.

In the past year, how has telemedicine helped neurology? How far can patients and doctors rely on it?
Telemedicine is safe and effective in these times of peril. It does have its limitations, but it’s the best thing to interact and get the right kind of help during the ongoing lockdown.

Black and white fungus cases are increasing in India every single day and it has been declared an epidemic by a few states. Can you help us understand what can be done to keep away from it?
Mucormycosis is a fungus that grows when your immune response is poor; cases increase due to indiscriminate use of steroids in diabetic or immunocompromised patients. Best would be to control sugar to optimal levels and not use steroids, especially when sugars are uncontrolled.

There’s a lot of negativity and uncertainty everywhere. How far a cry is a COVID-free world, especially India, and how can we move forward?
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus affecting the upper (mouth and throat) and lower (trachea and lungs) respiratory tract. The best modality would be to wear a mask and get vaccinated. Even after vaccination, you are at risk although lesser, so continue wearing a mask. There won’t be a COVID free world for a long time; the virus will mutate multiple times till we get used to the virus-like we got acclimatised to the common cold. Best way to move forward is daily exercise, the right kind of diet for the body and soul.

Can you help our readers with a few tips to keep their neurological system healthy at home?
Exercise for an hour is mandatory, eat everything edible in reasonable quantities, and use different oils for cooking in scarcity. Sleep well, meditate.