Many people who have had coronavirus complain that they continue to have difficulty thinking. According to scientists, this phenomenon, which some describe as “fog in the head”, requires more careful study, writes The Guardian.
For Mirabay Nicholson-McKellar, COVID-19 has been accompanied by an influx of symptoms, from chest pains to 11-day migraines and prolonged hospitalization. Seven months later, these “roller coasterFar from over: 36-year-old Australian still hasn’t fully recovered. Among other things, she has difficulty thinking, which is often described as “fog in the head”, writes The Guardian.
«Head fog seems like a strong understatement of what’s going on. It makes me completely sick. I can’t think enough to do anything“, – the woman admitted in an interview with the publication. She added that the term “cognitive dysfunction” is more appropriate to describe her experience.
According to her, the consequences were monstrous. “I cannot work more than one or two hours a day, and even a simple shopping trip can be a problemSaid Nicholson-McKellar. – When I get tired it gets much worse and sometimes all I can do — it’s lying in bed and watching TV».
The “fog in the head” made her so forgetful that she burned the bottom of the pots while cooking. “It often interferes with me in having a coherent conversation, writing text messages or emails, The Australian added. – I seem to myself a pale shadow of my past. Now I don’t live, I just exist».
Nicholson-McKellar is far from alone in her problem. According to Dr. Michael Zandi, a consultant at the Institute of Neurology at the University of California, he has come across patients who have lived with “fog in their heads” for months. He notes that such complications are observed not only among those who were hospitalized or in intensive care, but also among patients who were treated at home.
One of the difficulties in solving the problem of “fog in the head” is the vagueness of the concept itself. “This is not a medical term, but a feeling people convey.– explains Dr. Ross Paterson of London’s Queen Square Institute. – We have not determined what these symptoms are and whether they can be recorded, because, simply put, no one has done research yet.».
Zandi admits that problems with thinking and concentration have previously been reported by patients with other medical conditions. Including people with autoimmune lupus.
Dr. Wilfred Van Gorp, former president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology, says many COVID-19 sufferers with brain fog have other problems, from migraines to intolerance to loud noise and emotional control. “Their complaints are very similar to those of patients with concussion.“, He says, adding that there are also some similarities with chronic fatigue syndrome.
According to Zandi, coronavirus survivors can have many reasons for the fog in their heads – from inflammation in the body to a lack of oxygen entering the brain. The latter is of particular concern to those who have been connected to ventilators.
Zandi adds that laboratory experiments have even shown that the virus can infect brain cells and block oxygen delivery to neighboring cells. But this work has not yet received peer review.
Paterson also says that while research is scarce, patients hospitalized with severe neurological syndromes confirm that coronavirus can affect the nervous system. There are concerns that it may cause problems such as neuroinflammation and damage to the protective coating of nerve cells.
There may be psychological factors, especially among patients who were in the intensive care unit. “The procedure itself can be very scary.“, Zandi emphasizes.
Nick Gray, clinical psychologist and consultant at the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, notes that terms similar to “head fog” have previously been used to describe extreme fatigue, low mood and PTSD.
The latter presumably affects about a quarter of COVID-19 survivors who have been treated in intensive care units.
At the same time, according to Paterson, one more option cannot be ruled out. “Perhaps people who were sick, were locked up, had trouble sleeping. The question arises: are they more prone to migraines?“- he reasons.
Gray emphasizes that both psychological and biological mechanisms potentially play a role. “You need some pretty thorough research to figure out what’s going on here.“, He says.
Scientists have already formed a partnership group called CoroNerve to study the neurological and neuropsychiatric complications of COVID-19. In parallel, Paterson and his colleagues are examining blood and cerebrospinal fluid taken from coronavirus patients who have been hospitalized with neurological symptoms, those who have had the disease without such problems, and healthy people.
Van Gorp says that there is little research at the moment looking at “head fog”. But as a solution, he offers exercises to improve cognitive functions, as well as drugs for attention deficit disorder.
Others also point out that there is every reason to hope that this problem will be overcome. “We don’t know how long this will last Says Zandi. – But we have seen patients get better and function».