According to a recent study published by the National Institute of Health Research, the UK, found between 50 – 80% of people recovering from Covid-19 suffer from at least one enduring symptom of Covid-19.
Most of the symptoms are ‘long haulers’ that seem to spontaneously settle after 8-12 weeks, while in 10% of cases it has been seen that it can linger on for 6 months after testing negative for the virus.
On the other hand, the coronavirus mortality data shows that long-covid appears to be more frequent in women and in young people especially if they have a high body mass index (BMI). One of the most interesting and confusing nature of Covid-19 is that it is very difficult to predict the severity of initial Covid-19 infection.
Along with normal symptoms of COVID-19 like shortness of breath, many people have reported several neurological symptoms like muscle pain, migraine-like headaches, difficulty with concentrating, mild memory impairment and sleep disturbances (Illustrated in the graph).
Most of these symptoms are now occurring with other psychological issues like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
As a recent retrospective study published in The Lancet Psychiatry found that there might be a bidirectional association between Covid-19 and psychiatric disorders. This study was conducted on 62,354 covid sufferers. An incidence of 18.1 % of any psychiatric diagnosis within 14 to 90 days after Covid-19 was reported in people with no history of mental health issues.
Another paper published in The Lancet Neurology, showed that in cases with complications of Covid-19, like ischemic stroke or hypoxic anoxic damage may even lead to lingering neurological deficit requiring extensive rehabilitation.
“COVID is affecting the brain in unexpected ways. We are seeing patients present with strokes even without a previous diagnosis of COVID and are in hindsight found to have it. Even patients who have not had brain involvement with COVID suffer from prolonged lethargy, anxiety and depression. Several other side-effects will only unfold with time,” said Dr Mazda Turel, Neuro & Spine Surgeon, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central.
What are the possible reasons behind neuropsychiatric sequelae of Covid-19?
Understanding the mechanisms that may lead to persistent neuropsychiatric symptoms is still evolving. The evidence we have so far is primarily based on the symptoms of long haulers and can be grouped into four overlapping categories – severe systemic inflammation, neuroinflammation, microvascular damage, and neurodegeneration.