According to new research, many people who have recovered from Covid-19 infection are still suffering from dementia more than seven months later.
The study, which describes the types of cognitive problems experienced by patients who had been treated at the Mount Sinai system in New York City, adds to growing evidence that ‘long haul’ Coviders can suffer from a myriad of illnesses for weeks on end. and months after recovering from the first illness. Up to 24% of people who have recovered from Covid-19 continue to experience cognitive difficulties, including problems with memory, multitasking, processing speed and concentration, medical school researchers reported on Friday. Icahn of Mount Sinai on JAMA Network. Open.
“We are seeing long-term cognitive impairment across a range of age groups and disease severity,” said study author Jacqueline Becker, clinical neuropsychologist and associate scientist at Icahn School of Medicine from Mount Sinai.
For the research, tests were administered to 740 patients who had signed up to be part of a registry run by Mount Sinai, one of New York’s largest hospital systems that has been treating Covid patients since the early days. of the pandemic. The patients, who were tested between April 2020 and May 2021, were 18 or older, spoke English or Spanish, tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and had no history of dementia. The results showed a relatively high rate of cognitive impairment 7.6 months after the patients contracted the disease.
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The most common cognitive impairment – affecting almost 1 in 4 patients – was a problem with storing new memories, followed by problems with recalling memory. Other challenges reported were deficits in processing speed and executive functioning, which included the ability to initiate, plan, organize, and make judgments.
While inpatients were more likely to have cognitive impairment, patients who were only treated in the emergency department had also developed thinking problems.
Other hospitals are experiencing similar complications. At Northwestern Medical Center, some Covid patients ended up with cognitive deficits so severe that they could no longer take care of themselves after discharge, neurologist Dr. Igor Koralnik, division chief told NBC News. neuro-infectious diseases and global neurology.
“This study confirms what we also saw at Northwestern, that cognitive problems are persistent both in patients who have been previously hospitalized and also in patients who only had mild respiratory symptoms,” Koralnik said.
Young adults at risk for brain problems from Covid
While it is not surprising to find cognitive problems in those who were so ill they were put on ventilators in hospital, it is not clear why young patients with mild illness would be affected. , he added. Additionally, no one knows when, or if, any of these patients will return to where they were before contracting Covid-19, Koralnik said.
Because even younger patients who had a mild case of the disease reported cognitive difficulties, Becker recommended post-Covid screening for mental disorders as the standard of care, regardless of the patient’s age.
Seeing severe mental deficits in patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s is “heartbreaking,” said Dr. Helen Lavretsky, professor of psychiatry and director of the post-Covid clinic at UCLA. Some say “they can’t function; they cannot think; their memory is impaired; they get confused when they drive places they don’t know how they got there ”.
While there have been reports that the vaccination is helping long-haul Covid haulers, UCLA has seen mixed results. Some people get better, while others stay the same or get worse, Lavretsky said.
The scale of the problem is immense. More than 45 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States While most people infected with Covid recover within weeks, far too many face persistent symptoms.
“Twenty to 30% will have this prolonged reaction,” Lavretsky said. “In any school situation or complex work environment, it can really hurt performance. If a person is lucky, they may be able to function at a lower level. “
Currently, therapy that helps people work around their deficits is the only treatment, said Tracy Vannorsdall, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Therapists ask patients about their strengths and weaknesses, then design a program that will teach them to use their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses, Vannorsdall said.
“These people expect to return to their jobs, their families and their communities and engage in meaningful activities,” said Vannorsdall. “They want to be at their best cognitive level. “
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