In a new study from the University of Cambridge, researchers found weven in ten long COVID patients experience concentration and memory problems several months after the initial onset of their disease, with many performing worse than their peers on cognitive tests.
Half of the patients reported difficulties in getting medical professionals to take their symptoms seriously, perhaps because cognitive symptoms do not get the same attention as lung problems or fatigue.
In the study, the team tested 181 long COVID patients.
The majority suffered COVID-19 at least six months before the study began. Very few people had been ill enough with COVID-19 to be hospitalized.
A further 185 people who have not had COVID-19 are involved in the study for comparison.
Among the COVID-19 patients, about 78% reported difficulty concentrating, 69% reported brain fog, 68% reported forgetfulness, and 60% reported problems finding the right word in speech.
These self-reported symptoms were reflected in a much lower ability to remember words and pictures in cognitive tests.
Participants carried out multiple tasks to assess their decision-making and memory. These included remembering words in a list, and remembering which two images appeared together.
The results showed a consistent pattern of ongoing memory problems in those who had suffered COVID-19 infection. Problems were more pronounced in people whose overall ongoing symptoms were more severe.
To help understand the cause of the cognitive issues, the researchers examined other symptoms that might be linked.
They found that people who experienced fatigue and neurological symptoms, like dizziness and headache, during their initial illness were more likely to have cognitive symptoms later on.
They also found that those who were still experiencing neurological symptoms were particularly impaired on cognitive tests.
The team says this is important evidence that when people say they’re having cognitive difficulties post-COVID, these are not necessarily the result of anxiety or depression.
They say their results support other findings that suggest society will face a ‘long tail’ of workforce illness due to long COVID.
It is therefore important not just for the sake of individuals, but for broader society, to be able to prevent, predict, identify and treat issues associated with long COVID.
If you care about brain health, please read studies about how anxiety and PTSD can strongly change your brain, and this diet leads to fewer blood clots in the brain.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about a new drug that could prevent COVID-19, and results showing this existing drug can save damaged lungs in COVID-19.
The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience and was conducted by Dr. Muzaffer Kaser et al.
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