Coronavirus warning: COVID-19 diagnosis puts you at risk of dementia says study

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The race to get everyone in the UK inoculated against COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – has been given further impetus in light of recent research. The research, published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, shows the impact a Covid infection can have on the brain. Researchers from Oxford have found a link between a diagnosis of COVID-19 and the subsequent diagnosis of several psychiatric and neurological conditions, including dementia.

For the study, researchers analysed the electronic health records of 236,379 survivors of COVID-19.

From the records, they evaluated the risk of developing 14 common psychological or neurological conditions following a Covid infection.

Conditions included:

  • Brain haemorrhage
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Dementia
  • Psychosis
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders.

The researchers found a third of those with a previous Covid infection went on to develop or have a relapse of a psychological or neurological condition.

The risk was greater for those admitted to hospital or in intensive care.

Researchers compared a group of people who had had COVID-19 with two groups: those with flu and other respiratory infections respectively.

After conducting a comparative analysis, the researchers at the University of Oxford concluded Covid was associated with more subsequent brain conditions than other respiratory illnesses.

The participants were matched by age, sex, ethnicity and health conditions, to make them as comparable as possible.

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Covid sufferers were 16 percent more likely to develop a psychological or neurological disorder after Covid than after other respiratory infections, and 44 percent more likely than people recovering from flu.

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Previous studies have highlighted that people with dementia are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. This new study investigates whether this relationship may also hold in the other direction.

“This retrospective study, mainly based on US data, indicates that people are at an increased risk of being diagnosed with dementia in the six months following a COVID-19 diagnosis, compared to those diagnosed with the flu or other respiratory disease. This risk is highest for those who were admitted to intensive treatment units.

“While this study analysed data from the first six months following a COVID-19 diagnosis, this increased risk may not be limited to this time frame. Given that the peak of COVID-19 hospitalisations in the UK occurred in January this year, and we already expect a backlog of people waiting to come forward or be seen about memory concerns, services must be prepared to deal with a large number of potential dementia cases.”

Dr Sara Imarisio added: “The study doesn’t focus on the cause of this relationship and it is important that researchers get to the bottom of what underlies these findings.

“While COVID-19 has already had a disproportionate effect on people with dementia in many ways, these neurological impacts are an additional concern and must be a focus of future research efforts into the long-term impact of the virus.”

Other long term effects

Researchers continue to uncover the lasting effects of COVID-19.

Many people feel better in a few days or weeks and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks.

“But for some people, symptoms can last longer,” explains the NHS.

There are lots of long term symptoms you can have after a coronavirus infection.

Common long COVID symptoms include:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Pins and needles
  • Joint pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Tinnitus, earaches
  • Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • A high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or Taste
  • Rashes.

“Contact a GP if you’re worried about symptoms four weeks or more after having coronavirus,” advises the NHS.

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