People who have had COVID-19 face increased risks of neurological and psychiatric disorders like brain fog, psychosis, seizures and dementia for up to two years after infection.
Driving the news: That’s according to a new large-scale study from the University of Oxford which also found that anxiety and depression were more common post-COVID, although they usually resolve within two months of infection.
Why is this important: The study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal Wednesday, is the “first to attempt to examine some of the heterogeneity of persistent neurological and psychiatric aspects of COVID-19 in a large dataset,” according to an accompanying editorial.
- “The findings have important implications for patients and health services as they suggest that new cases of neurological disorders related to COVID-19 infection are likely to occur for a considerable time after the pandemic is over.” , said the study’s lead author, Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry, in a statement.
Rollback: A University of Oxford study last year found that a third of COVID patients had suffered from a psychiatric or neurological illness six months after infection.
By the numbers: For the latest study, researchers looked at the risks of 14 different disorders in more than 1.25 million patients, ranging from children to the elderly who were mostly in the United States, two years after COVID infection. .
- He compared this information with the electronic records of some 1.25 million people affected by other respiratory infections for the same period.
What they found: Adults 64 and younger who had had the coronavirus were at higher risk for brain fog (640 cases per 10,000 people) than those who had had various respiratory infections (550 cases per 10,000 people).
- There were 1,540 cases of brain fog per 10,000 people among patients aged 65 and older who had had COVID, compared with 1,230 cases per 10,000 for those with other respiratory infections.
Meanwhile, there were 450 cases of dementia per 10,000 people and 85 occurrences of psychotic disorders per 10,000 in patients over 65 post-COVID.
- For other respiratory infections in this age group, there were 330 cases per 10,000 of dementia and 60 cases per 10,000 of psychotic disorders.
To note: The researchers found that children were twice as likely to develop epilepsy or seizures (260 out of 10,000) within two years of COVID infection, compared to those who had had other respiratory infections (130 out of 10,000).
- The risk of being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder has also increased, although the occurrence is still rare – 18 in 10,000.
What they say : Wes Ely, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine who researches Long COVID, told STAT News that data shows that mood disorders and anxiety issues that are “prevalent in long COVID have tend to resolve within months, which is great news” for the patients.
- Another notable finding was “the neurocognitive deficits that cause people to have brain fog, don’t resolve so quickly,” added Ely, who is also associate director of research at the VA Tennessee Valley Geriatric Research and Education Clinical Center and did not participate in the study. .
- “Clinically, in my own practice and in our long Covid clinic, that’s exactly what we’re seeing: that the acquired dementia these patients get tends to be long-lasting and very problematic.”
The bottom line, via Harrison: The findings underscore the need for further research to understand why such neurological conditions occur post-COVID “and what can be done to prevent or treat these conditions.”
Go further… Long COVID: The Next Health Care Crisis
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with Ely’s comments and more details on the study.