Many long-term health effects from COVID-19 have yet to be explained definitively, and cognitive impairment from COVID is among the top-reported issues. Out of 101 physical, neurological, and psychological conditions reported by nearly 4,000 surveyed individuals infected with COVID-19, brain fog came in at number four.
The prevalence of cognitive impairment from COVID
Doctors and scientific researchers don’t know exactly what causes cognitive impairment post-COVID. However, it’s gaining more attention as a significant condition that can include memory loss, aphasia, dizziness, confusion, and other neuropsychological symptoms long after the immediate effects of the virus have gone. A recent 120-person study out of France found that 34% of patients hospitalized with COVID reported memory loss and 27% noticed problems concentrating months after being released.
Anecdotes on the disruptive nature of brain fog
Recently, The New York Times profiled several people suffering at different levels with cognitive impairment due to post-COVID brain fog . All expressed cognitive limitations, issues with short- and long-term memory, and few signs of improvement months later.
“It’s debilitating … It feels as though I am under anesthesia,” said Rick Sullivan, 60.
“Everything in my brain was white static,” said Erica Taylor, 31. “I was sitting on the edge of the bed, crying and feeling ‘something’s wrong, I should be asking for help,’ but I couldn’t remember who or what I should be asking. I forgot who I was and where I was.”
Michael Reagan, 50, can’t remember a single moment from the 12-day Paris vacation he took weeks before falling ill. He says he experiences different levels of brain fog, from “fuzzy” to “fluffy” to “fog.”
“I cannot function [in a fog state],” he said. “I sit and stare, unmotivated to move, my mind racing.”
Unknown causes for very real symptoms
So far, MRIs have not revealed physical brain damage in individuals with cognitive impairment from COVID. Medical theories range from autoimmune reactions to inflammation in blood vessels to tiny strokes and more. The virus simply hasn’t been around long enough for clinicians to fully understand the causes of related neurological issues. Some individuals suffering from brain fog also have lung or heart issues, which can amplify neurological symptoms.
BrainCheck assessment for cognitive decline
How long can patients expect brain fog and other long-term effects from COVID to persist? The answer is still unknown. What is clear, though, is the importance of monitoring changes in cognitive function for recovering COVID patients.
Across the country, enterprise health systems plan to build COVID recovery centers to help patients cope with the long-term affects. Several will use BrainCheck to assess and improve care for cognitive impairment. And any provider can try the platform free for 30 days.