New study shows lingering neurological effects of COVID-19
September 25, 2022
Source: Photo by Quinten Braem on Unsplash
The link between COVID-19 and neurological problems is well documented. However, most studies were limited to hospitalized patients, used a narrow selection of neurological outcomes, and had a follow-up of less than six months.
In the September 22 issue of naturopathyA more comprehensive analysis using federal health data shows that in the first year after being infected with COVID-19 there is an increased risk of stroke, cognitive and memory problems, depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, movement disorders, hearing and vision abnormalities, balance problems and coordination problems and Parkinson’s-like disease.
“We evaluated 44 brain and other neurological disorders in both out-of-hospital and hospitalized patients, including those admitted to intensive care,” said senior author Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University. “The results show the devastating long-term effects of COVID-19. These are an essential part of the protracted COVID. The virus is not always as benign as some people think.”
The researchers analyzed about 14 million anonymized medical records of patients of all ages, races and genders from a database maintained by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The data predates delta, ommicron and other COVID variants.
“We see brain problems in previously healthy individuals and in people who have had mild infections,” Al-Aly says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, female or male, or what your race is. It doesn’t matter if you smoked or not, or if you had other unhealthy habits or conditions.”
Based on their findings, it is estimated that about 6.6 million people have suffered brain damage related to the virus. Those who contracted COVID-19 had a 77 percent increased risk of developing memory problems, 50 percent more likely to have an ischemic stroke, and 80 percent more likely to have epilepsy or seizures.
COVID-19 patients were also 43 percent more likely to develop mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression, 42 percent more likely to have movement disorders, 35 percent more likely to have mild to severe headaches, 30 percent more likely to have eye problems such as blurred vision or inflammation of the retina, and 22 percent more likely to develop hearing abnormalities such as tinnitus.
Al-Aly called on governments and health systems to develop public health and prevention policies and strategies to both manage the ongoing pandemic and devise plans for a post-COVID world. “Given the colossal scale of the pandemic, addressing these challenges requires urgent and coordinated – but as yet absent – global, national and regional response strategies,” Al-Aly said.