Even MILD cases of Covid can leave you with long-term psychiatric problems

EVEN people who have mild Covid can end up with long-term psychiatric problems, a study has found.

Some coronavirus symptoms may also be more common in those with a mild case than those treated in hospital.

Lead author Dr Jonathan Rogers at University College London said: "We had expected that neurological and psychiatric symptoms would be more common in severe Covid-19 cases, but instead we found that some symptoms appeared to be more common in mild cases. 

“It appears that Covid-19 affecting mental health and the brain is the norm, rather than the exception."

The London team sought to find out how coronavirus infection can affect mental health and the brain – causing psychiatric and neurological symptoms.

They collected data from 215 studies in 30 countries, involving more than 105,000 patients that had suffered both severe and mild Covid disease.

Across the whole group, 23 per cent had depression, with studies seeing a prevalence of between 12 and 40 per cent.

Some 16 per cent experienced anxiety, with data ranging from six to 38 per cent.

The researchers said the “core psychiatric disorders” appeared to be “highly prevalent”.

It was not documented what proportion of the patients already had a history with mental illness.

Dr Rogers told the Sun the study did not look at how long these problems persisted, but a separate study yet to be published by the team did.

In recovered Covid patients "the prevalence of depression and anxiety did seem a bit lower than in the acute phase for depression (13 per cent), though not for anxiety (19 per cent)".

"However, this did not seem to get better over time after this point", Dr Rogers said.

"So it looks like people do improve on discharge from hospital, but they may be stuck with these symptoms for several months at least."

The study also found that loss of smell was the most common neurological symptom, affecting 43 per cent.

Some 40 per cent had weakness, 38 per cent had fatigue, 37 per cent loss of taste, 25 per cent muscle pain and 21 per cent headaches.

Headaches and fatigue were slightly more common in people with mild disease compared to those admitted to hospital (but not ICU).

But there was not enough data to separate mental health illness rates by disease severity.

The researchers suggested the brain may be impacted by the coronavirus as it could cause inflammation to the organ.

But it may also be the added pressure of the Covid pandemic – loss of job, worries about family and friends, for example – that cause mental health illness.

More research is needed to understand the exact mechanisms, the team said.

Dr Rogers, a psychiatrist at UCL, said: "Many factors could contribute to neurological and psychiatric symptoms in the early stages of infection with Covid-19, including inflammation, impaired oxygen delivery to the brain, and psychological factors.”

Joint senior author Dr Alasdair Rooney, of University of Edinburgh, said: "Neurological and psychiatric symptoms are very common in people with Covid-19.

“With millions of people infected globally even the rarer symptoms could affect substantially more people than in usual times. 

“Mental health services and neurological rehabilitation services should be resourced for an increase in referrals."

It's been previously suggested that long Covid – persistent symptoms that last weeks or months after illness – could be worse in patients who had mild or no symptoms of the virus.

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