Patients recovering from coronavirus infection suffer from increased rates of neurological and psychological problems, according to a large observational study published Thursday.
Oxford University researchers combed through more than a million patient records and found that two years after infection, patients who had recovered from COVID-19 were at risk higher levels of psychosis, dementia and “brain fog” compared to patients who had recovered. other respiratory diseases.
For some symptoms, there was an initial slight increase that stabilized. Anxiety and depression dropped to rates comparable to other respiratory illnesses after two months.
But, in the case of brain fog, for example, adults aged 18 to 64 who had recovered from COVID-19 suffered from it at a 16% higher rate than patients with other respiratory diseases. The difference was more marked in people over the age of 65, where an increased risk was also found for psychosis and dementia.
The data, mostly from patients in the United States, shows that minors are also affected. Children recovering from COVID-19 were twice as likely to have epilepsy or a seizure, and three times as likely to develop a psychotic disorder compared to those recovering from respiratory illness, even though the absolute risk of these conditions remains low.
The study, in The Lancet Psychiatry, showed that even the milder Omicron variant of the coronavirus that is currently dominant posed similar long-term risks.
Maxime Taquet, one of the study authors, noted that only patients sick enough to enter the healthcare system and be diagnosed with COVID-19 were included in the study, which underestimates those who have only mild symptoms. However, the same is true for the control group of patients cured of other respiratory diseases.
The study aimed to “extract what COVID, as a virus, specifically does to you, compared to what other viruses affecting the same part of your body in a generally similar way might do,” its author said. principal, Paul Harrison. He added that the study was not designed to identify the biological mechanism by which the virus causes the increased risk of psychological and neurological disorders.
The document adds to the growing body of evidence pointing to the lasting damage caused by the coronavirus. The issue has become a concern for governments, which are spending money researching and treating the cluster of symptoms informally known as “long COVID,” a label that includes both neurological issues as well as fatigue and shortness of breath.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that 3.7% of patients with COVID-19 develop a post-COVID symptom, said WHO lead Janet Diaz. Speaking at a conference on Wednesday, she said the average severity of post-COVID conditions is equivalent to that experienced by patients with severe neck pain, Crohn’s disease or the long-term consequences of a traumatic brain injury.
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