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Understanding Long Covid’s effect on your brain

By March 14, 2024April 15th, 2024No Comments

Long Covid has plagued 14.8% of Canadians with a confirmed or suspected mild to severe COVID 19 infection. Long Covid is defined by symptoms that last a minimum of 4 weeks post infection, with some people experiencing ongoing symptoms for months to years. Symptoms can range from mild annoyances to severely debilitating life altering issues. Common symptoms include extreme fatigue, pain syndromes, brain fog, respiratory, cardiac, neurological, digestive, fertility, and menstrual changes. Patients often present with symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, that has been seen to develop after other post infectious diseases.

This article focuses on the effects of Long Covid on the brain. New studies suggest that brain fog is one of the most common symptoms affecting a person’s memory and cognitive function. One study evaluated 351 patients through cognitive tests, blood work and brain scans. The results indicated that, “The brain deficits found in COVID-19 patients were equivalent to 20 years of brain aging and provided proof of what doctors have feared: that this virus can damage the brain and result in ongoing mental health issues.” A second study of 112,000 patients, from the United Kingdom, has shown cognitive deficits from 3 to 9 points of IQ loss for up to one year post infection. The deficits were mostly notable in memory, reasoning, and executive function.

Theories as to how the brain is damaged range from ongoing inflammatory reactions from the immune response to a lack of oxygen or a combination of both. It is well known that if a dementia patient gets an infection, commonly bladder infections in women, the dementia symptoms worsen. Therefore, fears exist that the neuroinflammation caused from COVID infections may accelerate dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis in the future.

Several studies have shown the positive effect of hyperbaric oxygen at decreasing neuroinflammation in post stroke, Alzheimer’s, and traumatic brain injury patients. More recent studies demonstrate the long-term clinical benefit hyperbaric oxygen has on Long Covid patients. Patients that underwent 40 sessions experienced significant improvements in sleep, fatigue, pain syndromes and cognitive function that persist after one year from the last treatment.

It is important for studies of this nature to define the deficits caused by infectious agents. Historically, many patients have been gaslighted by their physicians when they sought help for their aliments, as has been seen for many for years from post viral and post Lyme syndromes. Long Covid is fortunately receiving some support in the conventional medical community. This should help not only the legitimacy of those suffering from Long Covid, but hopefully also patients who have suffered in silence from other post infectious syndromes.


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