From hearing loss to paralysis, doctors flag viral infections wreaking havoc

Health experts emphasise the critical importance of addressing viral infections promptly, as neglect can lead to severe complications.
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

BENGALURU: Viral infections typically characterised by symptoms such as fever, nausea, and body aches, can escalate to severe consequences, including hearing loss, respiratory infections, vision impairment, and nerve damage that may result in paralysis.

The recent case of Bollywood playback singer Alka Yagnik, who has been diagnosed with rare sensorineural hearing loss after a viral infection, underscores the potential seriousness of viral illnesses and the importance of timely medical attention.

Health experts emphasise the critical importance of addressing viral infections promptly, as neglect can lead to severe complications. “Viruses infiltrate cells, disrupting their normal function, potentially causing significant cellular damage, particularly in vital organs,” the experts say.

Highlighting the lasting complications viruses can induce, including hearing loss and paralysis, which can stem from various viral infections, Dr Sheela Chakravarthy, Director of Internal Medicine at Fortis Hospital, said that a prominent example is Ramsay Hunt syndrome, triggered by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, known for causing chickenpox and shingles that manifests with facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear.

Dr Sheela explained that viruses can also target nerves directly, leading to paralysis in different parts of the body, while some invade the inner ear, damaging critical hair cells responsible for hearing and resulting in total hearing loss.

Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM), akin to polio, affects the spinal cord and causes rapid weakness in limbs, typically starting in an arm or leg, she highlighted, and also mentioned about the delicate hair cells in the inner ear that are vulnerable to viral damage, as well as exposure to loud noises, which can precipitate sudden and noticeable hearing loss.

Dr Brunda MS, Consultant in Internal Medicine at Aster CMI Hospital, highlighted that viral infections manifest diverse symptoms depending on the virus involved. “Some viruses, like Varicella and Epstein-Barr, can provoke neurological complications if untreated, while Hepatitis B and C may induce severe liver damage if not managed,” she said.

Even seemingly mild viral infections, such as those causing fever or cold, warrant medical attention if symptoms persist ‘beyond a week’ Dr Brunda said and added that viruses can trigger an overactive immune response, potentially damaging healthy tissues and leading to results as severe as organ failure.

She further highlighted vulnerable demographics and said that children, pregnant women, older adults, and individuals with weak immunity face heightened risks of complications from viral infections due to their less robust immune defences.

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