You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Woman fails to recognise her father after Covid-19 infection; can the virus lead to face blindness?

The Indian Express logo The Indian Express 22-03-2023

covid-19 face blindness © Provided by The Indian Express covid-19 face blindness Face blindness, also known as prosopagnosia, is a neurological condition (Source: Getty Images)

When Annie (name changed), a 28-year-old customer service representative and portrait painter, caught Covid-19 infection, she experienced symptoms such as high-grade fever, coughing fits that led to fainting due to lack of oxygen, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, and loss of smell and taste. However, three weeks after symptom onset, she felt well enough to start working from home before seeing her symptoms return four weeks later.

According to a study, published in the journal Cortex, she noticed disorientation and that “something was off with faces”. "These deficits caused her primary care provider to send her to seek care in an Emergency Department (ED). At the ED, a CT scan revealed no active bleeds in her brain, and she was discharged," it added.

However, in June 2020, when spending time with her family for the first time since contracting Covid-19, Annie noticed that she was unable to recognise her father or visually distinguish him from her uncle. "My dad's voice came out of a stranger's face," she told the researchers. Sharing that she is now relying heavily on people's voices for identification purposes, Annie said that she was previously able to draw a face and only look at a reference photo every 15–30 min, she now depends on photographs while drawing.

"Faces are like water in my head," she said, sharing that she is now relying heavily on people's voices for identification purposes. In the case study, Annie scored poorly on all four facial recognition tests used to diagnose prosopagnosia, or face blindness. She also reported to told that, since her COVID-19 infection, she has experienced "substantial" deficits in her navigation abilities, which frequently co-occur with prosopagnosia, the study authors wrote.

ALSO READ |How cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help improve your sleep

To explore whether other people experienced similar problems, the researchers surveyed 54 individuals who had long Covid about their neuropsychological abilities. A majority of them reported a decline in visual recognition and navigation abilities, the authors added. They said that these findings indicate that Covid-19 may cause severe and selective neuropsychological impairments "similar to deficits seen following brain damage," and that these problems are not uncommon among patients with long Covid.

What is face blindness?

Face blindness, also known as prosopagnosia, is a neurological condition that affects a person's ability to recognise faces. "It is a disorder of face perception where the brain has difficulty recognising and distinguishing between faces, even those of people the person knows well," said Dr Ravindra Srivastava, Head of the Department and Senior Consultant, Neurosurgery, Primus Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi.

covid-19 face blindness © Provided by The Indian Express covid-19 face blindness COVID-19 has been associated with a range of neurological symptoms (Source: Getty Images)

Agreeing, Dr Pavan Pai, Consultant Interventional Neurologist, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road, said that it is a neurological disorder that requires timely medical attention.


According to Dr Pai, the main symptom is that one fails to recognise faces even of people they tend to know. "Other signs can be the inability to recognize emotions on one’s face, not being able to know the gender or age of people, and not being able to recognise cars, animals, one’s gender, and characters in the film," he said, adding that these symptoms can lead to problems in day-to-day life.

What is it caused by?

While the exact cause of face blindness is not fully understood, it is thought to be related to abnormalities in the brain's fusiform gyrus, which is responsible for face recognition, Dr Srivastava said. "In some cases, it can be present from birth, while in others it may be the result of a brain injury or neurological disorder. More importantly, it is recognized that when Rt. fusiform gyrus was involved, it causes facial blindness."

ALSO READ |Does salt consumption affect men and women differently?

Dr Pai added that this condition also runs in families. "Moreover, brain damage, stroke, head injury, Alzheimer’s disease, and even encephalitis which is the inflammation of the brain can lead to this problem," he said.

Link between Covid-19 and face blindness

Acknowledging the recent study on the same, the experts noted that more research is needed to confirm the relationship between Covid-19 and face blindness. "The exact link between COVID-19 and face blindness is not yet fully understood. However, it is thought to be related to the virus's impact on the brain and nervous system. COVID-19 has been associated with a range of neurological symptoms, and it is thought that the virus may be able to cross the blood-brain barrier and directly affect the brain. More research is needed to understand the mechanisms behind this potential link," Dr Srivastava elucidated.

Agreeing, Dr Pai said that Covid-19 can impact one's cognitive and perceptual abilities, causing face blindness. "One should be aware of it," he said.

How to cope?

Here are some ways to cope with face blindness, as suggested by Dr Srivastava.

*Do tell people about the condition before you meet them.

*Ask people you are close to for help in identifying others.

*Ask people to introduce themselves.

*When you greet them, use people's voices or body language to tell them apart.

*Make a note of distinctive features about a person, such as hairstyles, jewellery, or accessories.

*Use name tags or write down the names of colleagues and where they sit at work.

📣 For more lifestyle news, follow us on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook and don't miss out on the latest updates!

More from The Indian Express

The Indian Express
The Indian Express
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon