October 11 2022 – Weeks after Jenny Volpe contracted COVID-19 in November 2020, she was no longer able to do her job running sexual assault support groups in Anniston, Alabama, because she kept forgetting the details survivors shared with her. “People have been telling me they have to reconsider their traumatic memories, which is unfair to anyone,” says the 47-year-old.
Volpe was diagnosed with The involuntary dysfunction of the Covid virus for a long timeThese include severe muscle pain, depression, anxiety, and loss of thinking skills. Some of its symptoms are more commonly known as brain fog, and they are among the most common problems reported by people with long-term problems after a bout of COVID-19.
Many experts and medical professionals say they are not even beginning to discover the effect of this in the coming years.
“I am very concerned about the epidemic of neurological dysfunction that is going down the shaft,” he says. Pamela DavisMD, PhD, research professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.
In the past two years, Volpi has been living with COVID for a long time, her executive job – Mental processes that enable people to focus attention, retain information, and multitask – She dwindled to the point that she had to relearn to drive. One of the different doctors who evaluated her suggested speech therapy to help Volpi relearn how to form words. “I can see the words I want to say in my mind, but I can’t get them out of my mouth,” she says in a low voice, ignoring her condition.
All of these symptoms make it difficult for her to take care of herself. Volpe, without a job and health insurance, says she did research on assisted suicide in states that allow it, but ultimately decided she wanted to live.
“People tell you things like you should be grateful that you survived them, and you should; but you should not expect someone not to grieve after losing their independence, their career, their finances.”
The findings of researchers studying the brain effects of COVID-19 reinforce what long-term people with COVID have been dealing with since the beginning. Their experiences are not fictional. It was compatible with neurological disorders – Including myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS – which carries much more weight in the public imagination than the term brain fogwhich can often be used dismissively.
Studies have found that COVID-19 is linked to conditions such as strokes. seizures; Mood, memory, and movement disorders.
While there are still many unanswered questions about exactly how COVID-19 affects the brain and what the long-term effects are, there is enough reason to suggest that people should try to avoid both infection and re-infection until researchers have more of the answers.
Worldwide, it is estimated that COVID-19 has contributed to more than 40 million new cases of neurological disorders Ziad Al-Ali, MD, a clinical epidemiologist and long-time COVID researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. in Latest study From the 14 million medical records of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the nation’s largest integrated health care system, researchers found that regardless of age, gender, race and lifestyle, people who have contracted COVID-19 are more likely to contract a wide range of 44 neurological cases after the first year of injury.
He noted that some conditions, such as headaches, slight decreases in memory and sharpness, may improve and go away over time. But other conditions that have emerged, such as stroke, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks nerves), often lead to permanent damage. Al-Aly’s team found that neurological conditions were 7% more likely in those who had been infected with COVID-19 than in those who had never been infected.
Furthermore, the researchers noted that, compared to control groups, the risks of thinking problems after COVID were more pronounced in people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. – It is highly unlikely that you will normally encounter these problems. For those over 60, the risks appeared lower because at that point in life, these thinking problems are not uncommon.
Another study of the veterans system last year showed that COVID-19 survivors were at a level 46% higher risk of contemplating suicide after one year.
“We should pay attention to this,” says Al-Ali. “What we saw is really the tip of the iceberg.” He is concerned that millions of people, including young people, will lose employment and education opportunities while dealing with long-term disabilities – and the economic and social effects of such repercussions. “What we are all going to leave behind is the trail of massive destruction in some people’s lives,” he says.
Igor Koralnik, MD, chief of the division of neuroinfectious diseases and global neurology at Northwestern University in Chicago, directs the long-running specialty COVID clinic. his team published a paper In March 2021 they detailed what they saw in the first 100 patients. About half of the population in the study missed at least 10 work days. This will have an ongoing impact on the workforce,” Koralnik He said in a podcast It was published on the Northwestern website. “We’ve seen that patients not only have symptoms, but they have reduced quality of life.”
For older adults and their caregivers, the risk of developing potential neurodegenerative diseases that the virus has shown to precipitate, such as dementia, is also a major concern. Alzheimer’s disease is already Fifth leading cause of death For people 65 years of age or older.
in recent study Among the more than 6 million people over the age of 65, Davis and her team at Case Western found that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in the year after COVID-19 increased by 50% to 80%. The chances were particularly high for women over 85.
So far, there are no good treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, but the total health care costs of long-term care and hospice care services for people with dementia More than 300 billion dollars In 2020. This does not even include costs related to households.
“The end effect of having someone with Alzheimer’s being looked after by a family member can be devastating to everyone,” she says. “Sometimes the caregivers don’t handle it very well.”
When Davis’ father developed Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 86, her mother took care of him until she had a stroke one morning while preparing breakfast. Davis attributes the stroke to the stress of providing care. This left Davis with no choice but to search for housing where her parents could receive care.
Looking at the broader picture, Davis believes that widespread isolation, loneliness, and grief during the pandemic, and the illness of COVID-19 itself, will continue to profoundly affect psychiatric diagnoses. This, in turn, can lead to a new wave of substance abuse as a result of uncontrolled mental health problems.
However, not all brain experts jump into the worst-case scenario, with much to understand before the alarm is sounded. Joanna HellmuthMD, a neurologist and researcher At the University of California, San Francisco, he cautions against reading too much into the early data, including any assumptions that COVID-19 is causing neurodegeneration or irreversible brain damage.
Even with brain scans before and after by Oxford University researchers showing Structural changes of the brain After the injury, she noted, they didn’t actually study the clinical symptoms of the people in the study, so it’s too early to draw conclusions about the cognitive problems associated with them.
“It’s an important piece of the puzzle, but we don’t know how that fits in with everything else,” Hellmuth says. “Some of my patients are getting better. … I haven’t seen anyone get worse since the pandemic started, so I am optimistic.”