By Dr. Paul Wright, Senior Vice President and System Chair of Neurosciences, Nuvance Health
- A small number of people who recover from COVID-19 have reported that they are experiencing neurological concerns such as headache, dizziness, lingering loss of taste or smell, muscle weakness, nerve damage, and trouble thinking or concentrating.
- Early evidence shows that lingering neurological symptoms may improve over time, but it’s important to be evaluated by a healthcare clinician to make sure the symptoms aren’t caused by another health problem.
At Nuvance Health, we’re seeing patients who are thankful because they recovered from COVID-19, but are now worried because they have lingering neurological symptoms. Nationwide, a small number of people who recovered from COVID-19 are reporting neurological concerns such as headache, dizziness, lingering loss of smell or taste, muscle weakness, nerve damage, and trouble thinking or concentrating — sometimes called “COVID fog” or “brain fog”.
There’s still much to learn about COVID-19 because it’s a new virus, including possible long-term neurological complications. What we do know is that it’s important to talk with your healthcare clinician if you have any health concerns after recovering from the virus.
Here’s what you can do if you or a loved one experiences lingering neurological concerns after COVID-19 infection.
Neurological concerns after recovering from COVID-19
Patients of all ages are reporting lingering neurological symptoms after COVID-19 infection. At Nuvance Health, most of the patients we’re seeing with these symptoms are between the ages of 30 and 60. It’s important to stress that only a small number of patients are experiencing these neurological after-effects — and although neurological symptoms are certainly possible, they aren’t common.
In most cases, patients with neurological symptoms report brain fog or feeling as if they aren’t quite back to normal weeks or months after recovering from COVID-19. Other lingering symptoms are headaches that affect their quality of life and ability to function, and loss of taste or smell.
The COVID-19 virus itself, as well as the symptom of fever and chills, can lead to muscle aches that usually resolve within a few days or weeks after contracting the virus. However, neurological specialists are also seeing some patients who experience increasing muscle weakness after recovering from COVID-19.
What to do about lingering neurological symptoms
If you or a loved one is experiencing lingering or unexplained neurological symptoms after recovering from COVID-19, you should make an appointment with your primary care clinician or a neurologist.
Early evidence shows that some lingering symptoms, such as brain fog, may improve over time, and lingering symptoms could be related to the virus itself. However, you could have an underlying health condition that was previously undiagnosed or an autoimmune problem that was triggered by the COVID-19 infection, which is why it’s important to have a medical exam. Your healthcare clinician will take a thorough personal and family history and conduct an exam to make sure there’s no other cause for your symptoms.
In some cases, you may be able to have a Virtual Visit, which is a safe and secure way to remotely connect with your healthcare clinician. If an in-person visit is required, Nuvance Health is taking precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in its facilities. Precautions include:
- COVID-19 screenings for all patients and staff
- Limiting the number of patients in the office at one time
- Using a virtual waiting room
- Bringing patients directly into an exam room that has been thoroughly disinfected
- Wearing a mask, and clinical staff may also wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) when seeing patients in the office
- Limiting visitors at our hospitals
Mental health concerns
COVID-19 has affected nearly every aspect of our lives, from how we shop for food and access healthcare services to how we work and whether we send our kids to school. It’s common for individuals to be afraid of the virus’s unknown effects, which can cause anxiety that may manifest itself in different ways, such as inability to sleep, sadness, and feelings of dread.
It’s important to be vigilant and protect yourself, your loved ones, and your fellow community members from COVID-19 infection. Still, you also need to make sure you’re eating healthy, exercising, and taking care of your mental health by connecting with others and doing things you enjoy.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression — whether you are recovering from COVID-19 or not — you should seek help by reporting it to your healthcare clinician.
It may also help to remember that as we learn more about COVID-19, we’re developing effective ways to prevent transmission and treat the virus. We’re also learning more about possible complications and how the virus may effect individuals differently. For example, even though some initial reports stated that strokes were common among younger patients with COVID-19, the stroke rate among younger patients across the country doesn’t appear to be as high as originally thought.
The bottom line: COVID-19 is still new, and experts don’t fully understand the potential long-term health effects of the virus. If you’re experiencing neurological symptoms or mental health concerns after COVID-19 infection, an evaluation by a healthcare clinician is your next step toward recovery.
Dr. Paul Wright has more than 18 years of experience in neurology. Board certified in psychiatry and neurology, Dr. Wright has extensive research experience including studying the effectiveness of novel therapies such as electroceuticals to treat neurological diseases.
Amy Forni, Manager, Public Relations
(203) 739 7478 | Amy.Forni@nuvancehealth.org