Increased risk of neurological and psychiatric disorders such as dementia and seizures is still higher two years after COVID-19 compared to other respiratory infections, an observational study of more than 1.25 million patient records published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry suggests.
The increased risk of depression and anxiety in adults lasts less than two months before returning to rates similar to those seen after other respiratory infections. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is mounting evidence that survivors are at increased risk for neurological and psychiatric disorders.
A previous observational study by the same research group reported that COVID-19 survivors have an increased risk of several neurological and mental health problems in the first six months after infection.
To date, however, there is no large-scale data examining the risks of these diagnoses over a longer period of time.
“In addition to confirming previous findings that COVID-19 may increase the risk of some neurological and psychiatric disorders in the first six months after infection, this study suggests that some of these increased risks may persist for at least two years,” said Professor Paul. Harrison, of the University of Oxford, UK.
“The results have important implications for patients and health services, as they suggest that new cases of neurological disorders linked to COVID-19 infection are likely to emerge well after the pandemic has subsided,” said Harrison, lead author of the study.
The study also highlights the need for more research to understand why this happens after COVID-19 and what can be done to prevent or treat these conditions. The study analyzed data on 14 neurological and psychiatric diagnoses collected from electronic health records, mostly from the US, over a two-year period.
Of those with health records in the US-based TriNetX network, 1,284,437 people had confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection on or after January 20, 2020 and were included in the study: 185,748 children, 856,588 adults ages 18 and up. 64 years old, and 242,101 adults over 65.
These individuals were matched with an equal number of patients with another respiratory infection to act as a control group.
Records of COVID-19 patients infected during different pandemic waves were also compared to examine differences in the impact of the Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants on the risk of neurological and psychiatric diagnoses.
People who had a first diagnosis of COVID-19 in the period when a particular variant was dominant were compared with a control group of the same number of people who had a first diagnosis of COVID-19 in the period just before the onset of that variant. .
The study found that in adults, the risk of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety initially increased after a SARS-CoV-2 infection, but returned to the same level as with other respiratory infections after a relatively short time.
After the initial increase, the risks of depression or anxiety diagnosis fell below those of the control group, meaning that after two years there was no difference in the overall incidence of depression and anxiety between the COVID-19 group and the other respiratory infection group .
However, the risk of being diagnosed with a number of other neurological and mental health conditions was still higher after COVID-19 than for other respiratory infections at the end of the two-year follow-up.
Adults ages 18-64 who had COVID-19 up to two years earlier had a higher risk of cognitive impairment, or “brain fog,” and muscle disease, compared with those who had other respiratory infections up to two years earlier.
In adults 65 and older who had COVID-19 up to two years earlier, brain fog, dementia and psychotic disorder were more common than those who previously had another respiratory infection.
The odds of most neurological and psychiatric diagnoses after COVID-19 were lower in children than in adults, and they were not at greater risk for anxiety or depression than children with other respiratory infections.
However, like adults, children were more likely to be diagnosed with certain conditions, including seizures and psychotic disorders during the two years following COVID-19.
Little change was observed in the risks of neurological and psychiatric diagnoses six months after COVID-19 just before and just after the emergence of the Alpha variant.
However, the emergence of the Delta variant was associated with significantly higher six-month risks of anxiety, cognitive impairment, epilepsy or seizures, and ischemic strokes, but a lower risk of dementia compared to those who had COVID just before the Delta wave. -19 were diagnosed. .
The risks during the Omicron wave were similar to those when Delta was the dominant variant.
“It’s good news that the higher risk of depression and anxiety diagnoses after COVID-19 is relatively short-lived and there has been no increase in the risk of these diagnoses in children,” said Max Taquet of the University of Oxford, who led the study. analyzes.
“However, it is concerning that some other conditions, such as dementia and seizures, are still being diagnosed more frequently after COVID-19, even two years later,” said Max Taquet.
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