Patients recovering from coronavirus infection suffer from increased neurological and psychological distress, according to a comprehensive observational study published Thursday.
Researchers from the University of Oxford searched more than a million patient records and found that, two years after infection, patients who had recovered from COVID-19 had a higher risk of psychosis, dementia and “brain fog” compared to patients who recovered from other conditions of the airways.
For some symptoms, there was an initial rise that levels off. Anxiety and depression dropped to the same rate as other respiratory illnesses after two months.
But in the case of brain fog, for example, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 who had recovered from COVID-19 suffered from it 16 percent more than patients with other respiratory diseases. The difference was greater in the over-65s, where an increased risk of psychosis and dementia was also found.
The data, mainly from patients in the US, shows that minors are also affected. Children who got over COVID-19 were twice as likely to have epilepsy or a seizure, and three times as likely to develop a psychotic disorder, compared to children recovering from respiratory disease, even though the absolute risk of developing a respiratory illness remains. the diseases low.
The study, in The Lancet Psychiatry, showed that even the milder Omicron variant of the coronavirus that is currently dominant carries similar long-term risks.
Maxime Taquet, one of the study’s authors, noted that only patients sick enough to enter the health system and receive a COVID-19 diagnosis were included in the study, which is fewer than those with only mild symptoms. However, the same applies to the comparison group of patients who recovered from other respiratory diseases.
The study sought “to find out what COVID, like the virus, does to you specifically, versus what other viruses that affect the same part of your body in a generally similar way might do,” said lead author Paul Harrison. He added that the study was not intended to identify the biological mechanism by which the virus causes the increased risk of psychological and neurological disorders.
The paper adds to the growing body of evidence pointing to the long-term damage caused by the coronavirus. The issue has become a concern for governments, which spend money on researching and treating the cluster of symptoms known informally as “prolonged COVID,” a label that includes neurological problems as well as fatigue and shortness of breath.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that 3.7 percent of COVID-19 patients develop a post-COVID symptom, said Janet Diaz, the WHO’s leader on the subject. At a conference on Wednesday, she said the average severity of post-COVID disease is similar to that of patients with severe neck pain, Crohn’s disease or the long-term consequences of traumatic brain injury.
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