Courtesy: Rachana Arya
An increasing number of health experts are concerned about the emerging evidence of higher risks of brain and mental health conditions among COVID-19 survivors. According to a report published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, at least one-third of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) were diagnosed with neurological disorders within six months of contracting the virus. Almost a quarter of these patients had never reported any neurological manifestations prior to the infection.
This study on the adverse neurological and psychiatric outcomes commonly occurring after COVID-19 was the largest-of-its-kind. It included the electronic health records of more than 236,000 patients diagnosed with the virus over a six-month span. When analyzing data from the patients, study authors said they found beyond any reasonable doubt that the pandemic symptoms were indicative of a surge of psychiatric and neurological disorders.
Findings of the observational study pointed to the below conclusions:
- The prevalence of neurological disorders was significantly higher in COVID-19 patients as compared to those who recovered from flu or other respiratory tract infections over the same time period, meaning that COVID-19 had a one-of-a-kind effect.
- Anxiety was the most common psychiatric condition, with 17 percent of those treated for Covid-19 exhibiting its symptoms, followed by mood disorders with 14 percent.
- Although the neurological effects were more severe in hospitalized patients, they were also normal in those who were only treated in an outpatient environment.
- Post-COVID cases of stroke, dementia, and other neurological syndromes were less common but still significant, particularly in those who experienced extreme infections. 7 percent of those admitted to intensive care with extreme COVID-19 had a stroke within six months, and almost 2% were diagnosed with dementia.
- Psychological disorders like anxiety and depression were the most common neurological and mental health disorders out of the 14 disorders looked at.
This real-world data from a large group of COVID-19 survivors has given an alarming picture of the pandemic’s long-term impact on those who were affected. The authors of the research said the data confirmed that the figures were worrying and required further urgent research.
Another smaller study conducted out of Italy on the connection between coronavirus and brain health found that 30% of patients hospitalized for the coronavirus experienced post-traumatic stress disorder following recovery.
According to Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, and the study’s lead author,
“Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial. As a result, health care systems need to be resourced to deal with the anticipated need, both within primary and secondary care services.”
Max Taquet, also an Oxford psychiatrist who worked with Harrison, noted that the study was not able to examine the biological or psychological mechanisms involved, but said urgent research is needed to identify these “with a view to preventing or treating them“.
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