A new study has shown that many people who have been dealing with long COVID suffer from at least four lasting neurological signs such as brain fog, headache, and the loss of smell and taste, even if they have never been admitted to the hospital during their initial infection. Researchers have looked at the data of 100 COVID19 haulers across 21 states. Patients have been monitored via telehealth or in-person at the Neuro COVID19 Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago from May to November 2020. The study has shown that none of the patients enrolled in the study have been admitted to the hospital when they have felt symptoms of COVID19 for the first time. All of them have been experiencing lasting symptoms of the disease for more than six weeks. Experts have observed these patients four to five months after their initial infection. Half of the volunteers of the study have been diagnosed with COVID19 and half of them have tested negative, however, they have been having symptoms that have been consistent with COVID19. The authors of the study have said that during the initial stage of the pandemic, it has been hard for people to get a COVID19 test done if they have not required hospitalization. It is possible that their infection might have been cleared by the time they have got their COVID19 test done. The findings of this report have been released in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.
The authors of the study have noted that nearly 85 percent of volunteers have been found to have at least four neurological symptoms. As per the data, brain fog and trouble thinking have been the most common symptoms among COVID19 haulers. Nearly 81 percent of participants have been dealing with these two neurological symptoms. Around 68 percent of people have been suffering from headaches and 60 percent of them have been dealing with a tingling sensation. More than half of the participants have been dealing with the loss of smell and taste. The study has shown that about 47 percent of participants of the study have been suffering from dizziness and approximately 30 percent of patients have reported having ringing in the ears. Apart from these neurological symptoms, long COVID includes other common symptoms such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and gastrointestinal symptoms as well. These symptoms have been fluctuating for months among patients, said the experts. When patients have been asked about how much they have recovered to their pre-COVID19 level, they have said that there has been only 64 percent recovery after nearly five months. The study has shown that long COVID is a crucial emerging entity that needs multidisciplinary expertise and care. Many studies have revealed that around 30 percent of people who have contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been dealing with lasting symptoms for up to nine months after the diagnosis. However, it is uncertain how many people might have been dealing with long COVID at present.
Experts who have been involved in the study have said that although the actual number of people suffering from long COVID is still unknown, possibly millions of people in the US might be dealing with this syndrome. The senior author of the study, Dr. Igor Koralnik, who is chief of Neuro-Infectious Diseases and Global Neurology at Northwestern Medicine has said that Long COVID might be affecting the quality of life and cognitive function of patients. The authors of the study have said that there is a need for more studies to find out the causes of long COVID and to help scientists unearth suitable treatments for the syndrome. Health experts have said that more than 40 percent of participants have said that they have been dealing with depression and anxiety before the COVID19 diagnosis. It might be a risk factor for long COVID syndrome. Nearly 16 percent of patients, who have been involved in the study, have said that they have been dealing with autoimmune disease prior to COVID19 diagnosis. This is twice as high as the dominance of autoimmune diseases in the general population. Experts have said that autoimmune disorder might be playing a crucial role in the prevalence of long COVID. The study has enrolled around 70 percent of women; it matches the sex ratio that is seen in other autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Women are three times more affected by rheumatoid arthritis as compared to men. It has been a small-scale study and the majority of participants have been white, therefore, the findings might not be applied to the general population.