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Blog #14 It looks like many people with Long COVID are experiencing brain fog.

Updated: Mar 20

This recent study *1 was conducted in the U.S. in order to investigate the prevalence of self-reported cognitive symptoms in post–COVID-19 condition (Long COVID). People in the U.S. who were 18 years and older were participated in the internet survey. There were 14767 individuals reporting test-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection at least 2 months before the survey (average age: 44.6 years, 3.8%: Asian,10.0%: Black, 9.5%: Hispanic,73.2%: White, 68.0%: women, 32.0%: men).  And a total of 1683 individuals (11.4%) of the full sample met their definition of post–COVID-19 condition, which means the individuals whose survey start date was more than 2 months after the month in which they initially identified a positive COVID-19 test and who continued to report symptoms at the time of the survey.  The survey questions were about cognitive symptoms, mood, and functional aspects.  I was personally shocked to find out that of the 1683 individuals reporting post-COVID 19 condition, 955 (56.7%) reported at least 1 cognitive symptom experienced daily, compared with 3552 of 13084 (27.1%) of those who did not report post–COVID-19 condition.  Simply put, more than half of the people with post-COVID-19 condition were experiencing some kind of cognitive symptom daily such as slowed thinking, trouble concentrating, having to work hard to pay attention to avoid making mistakes, trouble getting started, trouble remembering (eg: taking medicine or buying something), difficulty multitasking, and trouble making decisions.  Interestingly, they found greater daily cognitive symptoms in post–COVID-19 condition in women than men.  Younger age (the 18- to 24-year and 45- to 54-year groups) was also associated with increased daily cognitive symptoms.  According to the authors, this may reflect increased salience of symptoms or change from pre-COVID-19 baseline in younger individuals relative to older individuals who may already be experiencing age-associated cognitive decline. Also, in those with post COVID-19 condition, cognitive symptoms were associated with greater levels of depressive symptoms, greater reported functional impairment, and less likelihood of full-time employment.

As this study suggested, it is important to consider cognitive symptoms in the evaluation and management of post–COVID-19 condition since they are common features of post-COVID-19 condition.  There are many unknown aspects of the COVID pandemic since it was the first event that we as human have experienced together.  I hope that there will be more studies regarding post-COVID-19 condition in the near future and we will have some solid evaluation and management/treatment in place.  And of course, if you are experiencing cognitive symptoms in post-COVID-19 condition, please do not hesitate to seek help from healthcare providers so you can have an individualized care plan to improve your symptoms and quality of life.

*1 Jaywant A, Gunning FM, Oberlin LE, et al. Cognitive Symptoms of Post–COVID-19 Condition and Daily Functioning. JAMA Netw Open. 2024;7(2):e2356098. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.56098

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