1 in 3 Have Neurological, Psychiatric Problems Post-COVID

WEDNESDAY, April 7, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Doctors are seeing such cases around the world: About a third of COVID-19 patients go on to develop “long-haul” neurological or psychiatric conditions months after being infected, new research shows.

The findings suggest a link between COVID-19 and a higher risk for later mental health and neurological disorders, researchers report.

The new analysis of data from more than 236,000 COVID-19 survivors focused on 14 neurological and mental health disorders. It found that 34% of patients were diagnosed with such disorders in the six months after infection with the new coronavirus.

Most commonly, these disorders ranged from anxiety disorders to substance misuse disorders, insomnia, brain hemorrhage, stroke, and (much more rarely) dementia.

For 13% of those patients, it was their first such diagnosis.

“Sadly, many of the disorders identified in this study tend to be chronic or recurrent, so we can anticipate that the impact of COVID-19 could be with us for many years,” Jonathan Rogers, of University College London, wrote in an editorial accompanying the new study. Both were published April 6 in The Lancet Psychiatry.

One U.S. expert who was not part of the study agreed.

“Services and resources will need to be allocated for this care,” said Dr. Andrew Rogove, medical director of stroke services at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y.

The new study was led by Paul Harrison of the University of Oxford in England. His team looked at electronic health records to track outcomes for 236,379 COVID-19 patients, mostly from the United States.

About a third did go on to experience some kind of neurological or mental health issue within six months of their coronavirus infection. Anxiety (17%), mood disorders (14%), substance abuse disorders (7%) and insomnia (5%) were the most commonly diagnosed disorders, the team said.

Overall rates of neurological problems were much lower, including 0.6% for brain hemorrhage, 2.1% for ischemic stroke, and 0.7% for dementia.

Neurological conditions were more common in patients who had been seriously ill with COVID-19. For example, among patients admitted to intensive care, 7% had a stroke and almost 2% were diagnosed with dementia, Harrison’s group reported.

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