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COVID-19 primarily manifests as a respiratory illness, but cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and neurological symptoms have been reported in some cases. Although most of these symptoms are acute and resolve within a few weeks, many people experience long-term complications of the illness, a phenomenon referred to as “post-COVID-19 syndrome. A recent report describes the long-term neurological effects of COVID-19.
Mounting evidence indicates that COVID-19 affects the neurological system. A previous report found that the range of acute neurological symptoms associated with COVID-19 included psychoses, delirium, encephalitis, strokes, and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Other evidence suggests that COVID-19 affects speech. A case report describes a woman who manifested stuttering and word-finding difficulties during her COVID-19 illness. A recent lay article described the occurrence of stutter several weeks after recovering from COVID-19. Neuroscientists posit that the inflammatory response that accompanies COVID-19 perturbs the brain neurocircuitry that controls speech.
The most recent study investigating neurological phenomena associated with COVID-19 involved 165 people (average age, 65 years) who had been hospitalized for the illness and had recovered. Six months after discharge from the hospital, the patients were assessed for long-term neurological symptoms.
The assessments revealed that more than one-third of the patients experienced long-term neurological abnormalities after COVID-19 illness. The most common complaints were fatigue, memory and attention problems, sleep disorders, and muscle pains. Others included depression, anxiety, visual disturbances, impaired sense of smell, and tingling or numbness. The patients who reported having cognitive deficits were more likely to have experienced worse respiratory symptoms and required longer hospitalization than those without cognitive problems.
These findings suggest that COVID-19 is associated with a wide range of neurological disorders and many of these disorders manifest long after the original infection. The authors noted that since their study excluded patients with pre-existing neurological disorders, their findings might underestimate the full burden of neurological symptoms associated with COVID-19.
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