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Consultancy Corner: Summer may affect brain and nervous system

As the heat waves are rising in the city every day, we should be alert and aware of the disorders which affect Brain and nervous system in this summer.

Consultancy Corner: Summer may affect brain and nervous system
Dr V Satish Kumar, Senior Neurophysician, Gleneagles Global Health City


 It can affect all age groups in both gender, but the vulnerable people are those elderly diabetics, infants and especially those who are going out of Sun in the day time predominantly.

Stroke: The incidence of Ischemic strokes is much higher in summer months as compared to Brain Hemorrhages strokes which are more often seen during winter month. But the paradox is people often confuse heat stroke as stroke. But heat stroke is a misnomer. Heat strokes results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures 104°F usually in combined with dehydration which leads to failure of body’s heat regulation control mechanism called thermostat.

Common symptoms of heat stroke are Headache, confusion, disorientation, seizures, dizziness, vomiting and coma. Heat stroke often damages brain, muscle, liver, kidney and multiple organs. Hence proper diagnosis and emergency medical management is of utmost importance. Most importantly venous strokes i.e. cortical venous thrombosis are increasing incidence at May month due to heat, dehydration, intake of alcohol in men, and it is often missed unless sought for Imaging.

Headaches and Migraine: As we all know migraines are more commonly triggered in females during summer climate due to direct heat waves along with dehydration, bright Sun glare, high humidity and stormy weather. Also sleep deprivation and travel in summer vacation exacerbates severe prolonged migraine headaches called as “Status Migrainosus”. It is advisable to be aware of these temperature sensitivity and migraine triggers.

Cognitive performance and work efficiency: According to the Cambridge Brain Scientific Study, as the temperature goes up, brain efficiency and cognitive skills reduce by 13%. Researchers found that the memory, attention and multitasking ability gets impaired during heat waves.

Hyponatremia and Electrolyte abnormalities: The incidence of dehydration induced electrolyte abnormalities like both hyponatremia and hypernatremia are very common cause of emergency admission in elderly due to decreased intake of salt and hydration during summer. Many neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinsonism, dementia, chronic bed bound illness patients succumb to these electrolyte abnormalities when the craving for salt and water “An Osmostat” gets altered in neurodegenerative disorder.

Seizures: Apart from dehydration induced heat stroke, electrolyte abnormalities, excessive Sunlight flare and heat causes some photo(light) sensitive epilepsy symptoms. A special mention to Dravet Syndrome and hot water epilepsy which aggravates in heat climate and hot water bath respectively.

Cramps, Pain, Fatigue syndrome: Due to both extremes of temperature i.e. hot and cold, neuromuscular disorder like fatigue, cramps, pain are common and will be a disabling condition in patients with Diabetic neuropathy.

Steps to Avoid Heat induced Brain changes
  •  Stay in cool, shaded, Air conditioned rooms if possible
  •  Avoid travel and trips in hot summer day
  •  Hydrate excessively with salt
  •  Avoid alcohol and sugary solutions
  •  Use Sunglasses, Caps, Umbrella and Shades
  •  Consult your physician in case of emergency

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