A recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sheds light on the biological and clinical features of neurological symptoms associated with Long COVID.
Long COVID, or post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), includes a range of symptoms that last for months after an initial SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The study focused on 12 people with persistent neurological symptoms after COVID-19 and used an approach called deep phenotyping to closely examine their clinical and biological features.
Lower Levels of Immune Cells Found in Long COVID Patients
According to the study published in Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation, people with Long COVID had lower levels of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells compared to healthy controls.
CD4+ and CD8+ T cells are immune cells involved in coordinating the immune system’s response to viruses.
Researchers also found increases in the numbers of B cells and other types of immune cells, indicating that immune dysregulation may play a role in mediating Long COVID.
Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction Found
The NIH study also found that people with Long COVID had problems with their autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious functions of the body such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Autonomic testing showed abnormalities in the control of vascular tone, heart rate, and blood pressure with a change in posture.
It remains unclear if these changes are related to fatigue, cognitive difficulties, and other lingering symptoms.
Better Diagnosis and Treatment of Long COVID
The study’s findings may lead to better diagnoses and new treatments for Long COVID.
The results suggest that widespread immunological and autonomic nervous system changes may contribute to Long COVID.
These findings may help researchers better characterize the condition and explore possible therapeutic strategies, such as immunotherapy.
In conclusion, this study offers insights into the biological and clinical features of neurological symptoms associated with Long COVID.
The findings may help researchers better understand the condition, identify potential causes, and develop new treatments.
How to protect the brain in long COVID
Long COVID is a condition where people continue to experience symptoms of COVID-19, such as fatigue, “brain fog,” and shortness of breath, even after their initial infection has passed.
Many people with Long COVID report cognitive difficulties, such as difficulty concentrating or remembering things, and these symptoms can be debilitating.
While there is still much that is not understood about Long COVID, there are some steps that people can take to protect their brains and manage their symptoms.
Get plenty of rest: Fatigue is a common symptom of Long COVID, and getting enough rest is crucial for the brain to function properly.
People with Long COVID may need more sleep than usual, and it is important to prioritize sleep and make sure that the sleep environment is conducive to restful sleep.
Stay active: While rest is important, it is also important to stay active to keep the brain and body healthy.
Exercise can improve blood flow to the brain and help reduce inflammation, which may be beneficial for people with Long COVID.
It is important to talk to a healthcare provider before starting any exercise program, and to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of exercise.
Manage stress: Stress can exacerbate cognitive difficulties and other symptoms of Long COVID.
Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga, can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
Stay hydrated: Dehydration can worsen cognitive difficulties, so it is important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
Water is the best choice, but other fluids, such as herbal tea or low-sugar sports drinks, can also help keep the brain hydrated.
Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet is important for overall health and brain function. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can help support brain health and reduce inflammation.
Seek support: Living with Long COVID can be challenging, and it is important to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional if needed.
Joining a support group or connecting with others who are also living with Long COVID can also be helpful.
While there is no cure for Long COVID, these steps can help protect the brain and manage symptoms.
It is important to work with a healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses both physical and cognitive symptoms.
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The study was published in Neurology—Neuroimmunology Neuroinflammation.
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