A majority of Covid-19 “long haulers” – Covid-19 patients with persistent symptoms – experience four or more neurologic symptoms lasting for at least six weeks or more, according to a study published on Tuesday in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.
The small study from researchers at Northwestern Medicine evaluated just 100 non-hospitalized “long hauler” patients across 21 states who had symptoms consistent with Covid-19 such as sore throat, cough, or mild fever and were being treated at the Northwestern Neuro-Covid-19 clinic.
The most commonly reported neurologic symptom among the 100 patients was brain fog (81%), followed by headache (68%), numbness or tingling (60%), loss or altered taste (59%), loss of smell (55%). Dizziness, pain, and blurred vision were also reported symptoms. Among study participants, 85% reported having four or more neurologic symptoms.
The most frequent non-neurologic symptoms reported by the group included fatigue (85%), depression/anxiety (47%); shortness of breath (46%); chest pain (37%); and insomnia (33%).
Putting the data into context: There are a number of limitations of the study. First, only half of the 100 patients had any positive PCR or coronavirus antibody tests to confirm their infection. The other half of the patients did not have any laboratory-confirmed results of coronavirus infection but had symptoms consistent with Covid. The researchers noted that the initial generations of antibody tests were developed based on a hospitalized patients and were not sensitive enough to detect antibodies in non-hospitalized long haulers.
The researchers were able to evaluate 48 of the patients in person, but the other 52 patients were evaluated via telehealth visits, which did not allow for complete neurologic exams.
They also noted that 16 of the patients had a pre-existing autoimmune disorder including multiple sclerosis, lupus, and Hashimoto’s disease, and 42 of the patients evaluated had reported having a history of depression or anxiety.
Aside from the limited sample size, the researchers noted that a majority of the patients were white, and therefore the results may not be generalized to minority populations.
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