‘Brain fog’ may impact more than half of all COVID patients

October 15, 2020
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Some of the common symptoms of COVID-19 – fever, cough, shortness of breath - are relatively well understood.

But other symptoms such as difficulty concentrating or loss of smell or taste continue to raise questions about how the coronavirus affects the human body.

Dr. Natalie Lambert is an associate research professor at Indiana University School of Medicine who is working to track the symptoms of COVID survivors by surveying patients with mild to moderate cases.

“Most of the data that we have on COVID cases is with hospitalized cases, so people who are sick enough to be admitted to the emergency room and getting care there. Well right now, that’s less than 1% of people,” she said.

Some of the most common symptoms that patients have reported include fatigue, shortness of breath, difficultly concentrating and headaches. But patients also reported symptoms like hair loss, heart problems in patients who were previously healthy and even significant loss in vision quality.

While Dr. Lambert’s research is still ongoing, she says that in a recent survey 52.6 percent of people reported difficulty concentrating, and 39 percent experienced memory loss.

“The way that patients describe it is that they might sit down to do a normal activity – especially a work activity – and they just can’t concentrate or focus. They can’t recall words that they normally can, they can’t make sense of things or come up with solutions the way that they normally can. For some people it’s so severe that they forget the names of common household objects,” she explained.

There are three emerging categories of symptoms: vascular, such as cardiac or blood pressure issues, autoimmune symptoms, which may be related to hair loss and rashes, and nerve damage like pain, difficulty focusing and loss of taste or smell.

And symptoms can linger for months.

“For a significant group of people – as many as one in three according to the CDC – some people are not getting better and they’re even getting a whole host of unusual symptoms starting after those two weeks,” said Dr. Lambert. “We have reports from people who are young and healthy in their 30’s who got COVID and now even four, five months later they’re still having nerve pain, they’re having difficulty breathing, they’re having memory problems, headaches.”

People who have survived COVID-19 and want to participate in the study can visit survivorcorps.com.

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