- Many coronavirus patients experience a range of lingering cognitive issues months after their initial diagnoses.
- Some of the more common neurological issues that tend to last for months include confusion and memory loss.
- It remains unclear if these cognitive deficits are permanent or will slowly go away over time.
- None of these scary issues are mentioned in the CDC’s list of COVID-19 symptoms.
If you take a look at the CDC’s list of common coronavirus symptoms, the ailments are rather familiar at this point: fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, headaches, loss of taste or smell, nausea, and body aches. The symptoms above are of course similar to what one might experience with the flu, but as we’ve seen over the past few months, the degree to which the coronavirus can ravage the human body makes it much more dangerous than the flu.
Coming down with the flu is certainly no walk in the park, but after 7-10 days most people with the flu make a full recovery and can get back to normal day-to-day activities. There are also plenty of medicines that can help with more serious cases, and vaccines each year that help prevent the flu altogether. Recovering from the coronavirus, however, is far from that simple. On the contrary, studies have shown that many patients who test positive for the coronavirus can often experience serious coronavirus symptoms that linger on for months even after they clear the virus.
Just this week, a research study from the University of British Columbia (UBC) revealed that nearly 80% of coronavirus survivors experience symptoms like fatigue and breathing troubles months after making a seemingly healthy recovery. What’s more, there’s mounting evidence that a coronavirus infection can cause serious damage to both the heart and lungs.
“We found to our dismay that a number of individuals who have completely recovered and apparently are asymptomatic, when they have sensitive imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance, imaging, or MRI, have found to have a disturbing number of individuals who have inflammation of the heart,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said last month.
“When you have inflammation you can have scarring,’ Fauci added. “That could lead to arrhythmias later on or lead to cardiomyopathies.”
And with respect to lung damage, a researcher involved with the aforementioned UBC study said that the lung scarring he’s seen in patients is “essentially permanent” and likely to impair “lung function.”
Another coronavirus symptom that many patients can’t seem to get rid of involves a host of neurological issues. In fact, a recent research study out of Northwestern revealed that nearly 82% of coronavirus patients experience some type of neurological symptom at some point during their illness. One of the more serious neurological symptoms is encephalopathy, a term that encompasses several cognitive issues such as altered brain function, confusion (otherwise known as brain fog), memory loss, an inability to concentrate on tasks for a sustained period of time, and even subtle personality changes.
The Northwestern study reads in part:
Upon discharge from the hospital, only 32.1% of patients with encephalopathy were able to care for their own affairs, compared to 89.3% of those who did not develop encephalopathy. There was also higher mortality in patients with encephalopathy (21.7%) compared to 3.2% of those without.
Shedding more light on how these neurological issues can impact patients, Physician’s Weekly reports that memory issues are especially visible in older coronavirus survivors.
For months, as Marilyn Walters has struggled to recover from COVID-19, she has repeated this prayer day and night.
Like other older adults who’ve become critically ill from the coronavirus, Walters, 65, describes what she calls “brain fog” — difficulty putting thoughts together, problems with concentration, the inability to remember what happened a short time before.
This sudden cognitive dysfunction is a common concern for seniors who’ve survived a serious bout of COVID-19.
While younger adults with COVID-19 can experience cognitive issues as well, the issue seems to impact older patients more frequently.
And speaking to the seriousness of the issue, one doctor told Physician’s Weekly that “recovery will be on the order of months and years, not days or weeks.”
For individuals experiencing cognitive issues months after their initial diagnosis, doctors are recommending a range of treatment that includes physical therapy, speech therapy, and cognitive rehabilitation.
Given that the coronavirus is still a relatively new virus, it will clearly take some time for doctors to understand how permanent some of the above symptoms are.
In light of that, it’s as important as ever to avoid pandemic fatigue and strictly follow coronavirus safety guidelines like proper hand hygiene, mask-wearing, and social distancing. Especially with health experts anticipating a massive spike in new infections and coronavirus-related deaths in November and December, adhering to safety measures is more imperative now than before.
As a prime example, a top infectious disease doctor recently warned that the next 2-3 months are going to be the “darkest of the entire pandemic.”