Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was concern about a greater risk of neurological diseases, due to the initial reports of the survivors. An observational study found an increased risk of mood and anxiety disorders in the first three months after coronavirus infection, but there was still no large-scale work looking at a longer period of time.
The authors analyzed data from 236,379 patients, most from the USA. The study included patients over ten years of age who were infected with the coronavirus after January 20, 2020 and were alive on December 13, 2020. The group was compared with another of 105,000 patients who had flu and one of 236 1,000 people who have had any respiratory tract disease (including influenza).
According to them, anxiety (17%), mood disorders (14%), substance abuse (7%) and insomnia (5) were the most common diagnoses that Covid-19 survivors received.
Neurological diseases were more rare but not uncommon among those severely affected by the coronavirus. They include cerebral hemorrhage (0.6%), ischemic stroke (2.1%) and dementia (0.7%).
These diseases were more common in patients with Covid-19 than among those who had influenza or other diseases of the respiratory tract in the same period analyzed, which suggests a specific impact of the coronavirus.
The risks were also greater in patients who had a severe Covid picture – but were not limited to them. Neurological or psychiatric illnesses were diagnosed, in general, in 34% of the survivors, but in 38% of those who received hospital care, in 46% of those who stayed in the ICU and in 62% of those who had “delirium” (encephalopathy) during the infection period.
According to Max Taquet, a researcher at the University of Oxford and co-author of the study, it is now necessary to see what happens to patients after six months. The study, he says, does not reveal the mechanisms involved in increasing the risks, but points to the urgent need to identify them so that they can be prevented or treated.
“Although the risk of these diseases is small from an individual point of view, the effects on the population as a whole are considerable for the health and social assistance systems, because of the scale of the pandemic and taking into account that many of these diseases are chronic “Paul Harrison, lead author of the study and professor at the University of Oxford, said in a statement.
The study has limitations, according to the authors, such as the fact that many people with Covid-19 have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic and do not seek health care; the population studied, therefore, is more likely to have been affected more severely by Covid than the general population.
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