Half of COVID Patients Have These Symptoms for Months, Says Study
Coronavirus was first considered a primarily respiratory disease. But six months into the pandemic, researchers continue to discover that the virus can severely impact other organ systems—including the heart, kidneys and brain—on a fairly long-term basis.
Just last week, a new study published in the Lancet found than 55% diagnosed with coronavirus have neurological symptoms three months after their diagnosis.
Neurological symptoms reported by people who've had COVID-19 include severe fatigue, confusion, brain fog, an inability to focus, personality changes, insomnia and loss of taste and/or smell.
When doctors compared brain scans of 60 COVID-19 patients to those of uninfected people, they found that the brains of the COVID patients had structural changes associated with memory loss and the loss of the sense of smell.
Last month, researchers at the University College of London warned that the coronavirus could cause an "epidemic" of brain damage. For a study published in the journal Brain, the scientists examined 43 COVID-19 patients treated in London who ranged in age from 16 to 85. The scientists found 10 cases of "temporary brain dysfunction" and delirium, 12 cases of brain inflammation, eight cases of strokes, and eight cases of nerve damage.
Some people had mild cases of COVID; others more severe. But the severity of the overall illness didn't determine whether the person suffered neurological symptoms; for some people, neurological issues were the only symptom they had.
Seen in Previous Epidemics
The culprit may be the inflammation that COVID causes in the brain and nervous system; it was also recently reported that COVID can inflame the heart, causing electrical problems that affect its ability to beat regularly.
The London University researchers pointed out that previous viral pandemics have resulted in widespread neurological problems. "We should be vigilant and look out for these complications in people who have had COVID-19," said senior author Dr. Michael Zandi. "Whether we will see an epidemic on a large scale of brain damage linked to the pandemic—perhaps similar to the encephalitis lethargica outbreak in the 1920s and 1930s after the 1918 influenza pandemic—remains to be seen."
Trouble Returning to Normal Life
Dr. Zijian Chen, medical director of Mount Sinai's Center for Post-COVID Care in New York, told MarketWatch he'd seen patients with extreme fatigue and difficulty concentrating for weeks to months after they had technically recovered from the virus. "And this is important because, despite their illness being 'over,' they are having a lot of trouble returning to normal life," he said.
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.