Approximately 85% of so-called COVID-19 “long-haulers” have experienced four or more neurologic symptoms while contending with the long-term impacts of contracting the coronavirus, according to a new study by Northwestern Medicine.
Northwestern physicians interviewed “long-haulers,” defined as individuals who have had COVID-19 symptoms for six or more weeks, the hospital system said Tuesday in a statement announcing the results of what it said was the first such study.
The neurologic symptoms “impacted their quality of life, and in some patients, their cognitive abilities,” according to Northwestern.
“Our study is the first to report neurologic findings in non-hospitalized COVID-19 long-haulers, including detailed neurologic exam, diagnostic testing, and validated measures of patient quality of life, as well as cognitive function test results,” Dr. Ignor Koralnik, chief of neuro-infectious diseases and global neurology at Northwestern Medicine, said.
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Doctors say that depression and anxiety were among the most common comorbidities that patients reported facing prior to their COVID-19 diagnosis.
“We were surprised by the number of patients who were suffering from depression or anxiety before their COVID-19 diagnosis, and this suggests a possible neuropsychiatric vulnerability to developing long COVID,” Koralnik said.
The study interviewed 100 individuals who are no longer hospitalized due to their COVID-19 symptoms. Individuals from 21 different states were interviewed as part of the long-ranging study, which took place from May to November of 2020.
Of those patients, 81% reported “brain fog,” while 68% reported persistent headaches. More than 50% of patients reported numbness or tingling, disorders of taste and smell, and muscle pain, among other neurologic symptoms.
Physicians said 85% of patients reported feeling frequent fatigue, with another 47% reporting depression or anxiety while going through their fight with the disease. Another 46% reported feeling shortness of breath, while 37% reported having chest pain.
The full study can be found here.