News: Post-COVID patients more at risk for long-term neurologic problems
Former COVID patients had a 42% increased risk of neurologic problems 12 months after testing positive, according to a new study published in Nature Medicine. The analysis was taken from millions of United States veterans’ records using Veterans Affairs national healthcare databases, and showed risk of movement disorders, memory problems, strokes, and seizures rose one year after acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. The burden was roughly a 7% increase in long-term neurologic problems, and elevated even in those that did not require hospitalization during acute COVID-19, Medpage Today reported.
Researchers built cohorts including 154,068 individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 from March 2020 to January 2021, 5,638,795 contemporary controls who were not infected, and 5,859,621 historical controls from 2017. When compared with controls, COVID patients were 80% more likely to have a new occurrence of epilepsy or seizures and 43% more likely to develop mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression. They were 42% more likely to be diagnosed with movement disorders, 35% more likely to have mild to severe headaches at one year, and 50% more likely to have an ischemic stroke.
COVID patients also had an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who weren’t infected. “It's unlikely that someone who has had COVID-19 will just get Alzheimer's out of the blue,” Al-Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, one of the researchers from Washington University in St. Louis and Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System, told Medpage Today. “Alzheimer's takes years to manifest. But what we suspect is happening is that people who have a predisposition to Alzheimer's may be pushed over the edge by COVID, meaning they're on a faster track to develop the disease. It's rare but concerning.”
The researchers noted that people had a higher risk of all the neurologic outcomes examined in their analysis, regardless of age. They suggested, based on the analysis, that the effect of COVID-19 on risk of memory and cognitive disorders, sensory disorders and other neurologic disorders might be stronger in younger adults. “The effects of these disorders on younger lives are profound and cannot be overstated; urgent attention is needed to better understand these long-term effects and the means to mitigate them,” the researchers stated in their report.
Editor’s note: To read Medpage Today’s coverage of this report, click here. To read the full study, click here.