Neurologic Symptoms Persistent for Many COVID-19 ‘Long-Haulers’

Shot of a young woman wearing a mask and suffering from throat pain in a doctor’s office
Researchers conducted a prospective study of the first 100 consecutive patients presenting to a Neuro-COVID-19 clinic to assess neurologic manifestations.

HealthDay News — For COVID-19 long-haulers, neurologic symptoms are common, with 81% experiencing brain fog and 85% with fatigue, according to a study published online March 23 in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

Edith L. Graham, MD, from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues conducted a prospective study of the first 100 consecutive patients (50 SARS-CoV-2-positive and 50 negative) presenting to a Neuro-COVID-19 clinic between May and November 2020. Patients met the Infectious Diseases Society of America symptoms of COVID-19, were not hospitalized, and had neurologic symptoms lasting for more than 6 weeks. The frequency of neurologic symptoms was recorded, and patient-reported quality-of-life measures and standardized cognitive assessments were analyzed.

The researchers found that depression/anxiety and autoimmune disease were the most frequent comorbidities (42% and 16%, respectively). Brain fog, headache, numbness/tingling, dysgeusia, anosmia, and myalgias were the main neurologic manifestations (81%, 68%, 60%, 59%, 55%, and 55%, respectively); only anosmia was more frequent in SARS-CoV-2-positive vs SARS-CoV-2-negative patients (74% vs 36%). Fatigue was experienced by 85% of patients. Both groups had impaired quality of life in the cognitive and fatigue domains. Compared with a demographic-matched U.S. population, SARS-CoV-2-positive patients performed worse in attention and working-memory cognitive tasks.

“The long-term impact of ‘long COVID’ on quality of life and potential return to normalcy, through lost productivity and lingering cognitive dysfunction, may be substantial as the pandemic continues to escalate,” the authors write.

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