A recent study indicates that “brain fog” can linger and even intensify for those who were infected months before, as researchers seek to learn more about COVID-19 and so-called long-haulers.
Long-haul drivers appear to experience symptoms long after being diagnosed with COVID, and these symptoms may be both neurological and physical.
“People have trouble problem-solving, or they get in the car and forget where they’re supposed to be going,” said study author Leonard Jason, a psychologist at DePaul University in Chicago.
The researchers compared long-haulers’ complaints with those with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS.
ME/CFS patients have long-term complications that may be caused by the Epstein-Barr virus or other unexplained factors.
Long-haul COVID-19 was characterised by the researchers as having serious, long-lasting symptoms three months after contracting the virus.
The report involved 278 long-term COVID-19 patients who were questioned about their symptoms twice, six months apart.
Researchers have polled over 500 ME/CFS patients about their symptoms, which overlapped somewhat with COVID-19.
At the six-month mark, COVID long-haulers reported worse neurocognitive symptoms than at the outset of their illness. This including trouble forming words, difficulty focusing and absent-mindedness.
Still, these symptoms were ranked less severe than those associated with ME/CFS.
The majority of other long-term effects, such as sleep disorders, immune-related issues, pain, and stomach issues, tended to change over time.
Malaise after exertion, which involves feeling physically and mentally exhausted or high, was the most extreme symptom of both classes.
According to the researchers, both groups of patients experience common problems because their family members and health care providers do not recognise the evolving symptoms.
“We don’t know how many long-haulers will stay on this type of trajectory,” said Jason, who is director of the Center for Community Research at DePaul.
He and other researchers estimate about 10% of people who have COVID-19 become long-haulers.
A review of past literature suggests that previous pandemics, including the 1918 Spanish flu, also led to long-term fatigue for many patients.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provided funding for this research. Findings were published online recently in the journal Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on long-haul COVID.
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