Covid-19 can cause brain fog, PTSD: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 08, 2020

According to a study, patients who have recovered from Covid-19 may experience neurological after-effects of the infection that include brain fog and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Brain fog is the lack of sharp memory or focus.

PTSD was the most common mental health experienced during past human coronavirus outbreaks such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

The researchers stated in the study published in The Clinical Neuropsychologist journal that recovered patients have experienced difficulty in concentration, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, or sleep disruptions.

According to the authors of the study, some patients also feared that the symptoms would linger throughout their lives.

A paper co-authored by clinical professor and neuropsychologist Andrew Levine, MD, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and graduate student Erin Kaseda, of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, in Chicago, carried out the study.

Also read: Covid-19 alters mental state of around one-third patients: Study

They looked at the records of survivors of previous coronaviruses, which caused SARS and MERS.

Commenting on the neurological symptoms, Levine said in a statement: “The idea is to raise awareness among neuropsychologists that PTSD is something you might want to consider when evaluating persistent cognitive and emotional difficulties among Covid-19 survivors.”

Levine explained: “When we see someone for neuropsychological testing, we expect them to be at their best, relatively speaking. If we identify a psychiatric illness during our evaluation, and if we believe that the symptoms of that condition are interfering with their ability to perform at their best, we would want that treated first and then retest them once it’s under control.”

Researchers believe that by exploring psychiatric conditions such as PTSD, a clearer picture will emerge regarding the underlying brain issues.

Another researcher of the study, Kaseda, said: “Once they have treatment, and hopefully have some remission of their psychiatric symptoms, if the cognitive complaints and the deficits on neuro-psychological tests are still there, then that’s more evidence that something else is going on.”

“It’s going to be important for clinicians across the board to be keeping up with the literature that’s coming out, to make sure they have the most up to date information as these survivors are starting to present for neuropsychological testing,” she added.

She also said that when these symptoms linger for months or years after the original injury, it’s much more likely to be due to the presence of a psychiatric disorder.

A review of data from the SARS and MERS outbreaks showed that those survivors had a heightened risk of PTSD.

According to another study cited in the previous report, almost one-third of hospitalised Covid-19-positive patients had experienced some sort of altered mental function. The mental instability ranged from confusion to delirium to unresponsiveness.

Published on October 08, 2020

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