Long-term brain issues could persist in patients who've been infected with COVID-19, according to study results published in the medical journal The Lancet.
An assessment of 81,337 participants between January and December 2020 found that people who had recovered from COVID-19 exhibited significant cognitive deficits, The Lancet reported.
The results, based on the Great British Intelligence Test, indicated that both people who had been hospitalized and individuals not hospitalized suffered cognitive deficiencies.
Researchers said it was less clear whether milder cases of COVID-19 that have not required hospitalization can cause measurable cognitive deficits.
Tasks requiring problem-solving, planning, and reasoning were harder for COVID-19 patients than for people who hadn't had the virus, Metro UK reported.
The assessment was conducted following growing evidence that individuals with severe COVID-19 suffer symptoms that persist beyond the initial illness, including through the sub-acute and into the early chronic phase.
"These results accord with reports of long-Covid, where ‘brain fog’, trouble concentrating and difficulty finding the correct words are common," the researchers said.
"The deficits were of substantial effect size for people who had been hospitalized."
These symptoms include low energy, problems concentrating, disorientation, and difficulty finding the right words.
Researchers urged caution on drawing too many conclusions from the survey, and said more research and data regarding COVID-19 and cognitive issues is needed.
According to the research, it has not been established whether COVID-19 infection is associated with cognitive deficits at the population level, and how this differs with respiratory symptom severity.
The survey found that patients hospitalized and put on a ventilator suffered cognitive deficiencies greater than the average 10-year decline in global performance between the ages of 20 to 70, and larger than deficits of 480 people who indicated they had previously suffered a stroke and the 998 who reported learning disabilities.
COVID-19 patients suffered greater cognitive deficiency than other groups that were divided up by age, gender, education level, income, racial-ethnic group, pre-existing medical disorders, tiredness, depression and anxiety.
Other studies have provided evidence that COVID-19 patients can develop a range of neurological complications including those arising from stroke, encephalopathies, inflammatory syndrome, microbleeds, and autoimmune responses.
"Previous studies in hospitalized patients with respiratory disease not only demonstrate objective and subjective cognitive deficits but suggest these remain for some at 5-year follow-up," the researchers said.
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