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What is long COVID? Mental fog and other symptoms

by Marzia Parmigiani
8 minutes read
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Long COVID Symptoms

COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus disease, is a highly infectious respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Since the initial outbreak in late 2019, the virus has spread rapidly worldwide, resulting in millions of infections and deaths.

While most people who contract COVID-19 experience mild symptoms, such as fever, cough, and fatigue. Some individuals may develop severe complications, including pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and organ failure.

In addition to the acute phase of the illness, some people may also experience prolonged symptoms. They are known as long COVID or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC).

So, long COVID is a condition in which individuals experience persistent symptoms. For weeks or even months after the initial infection has resolved.

These symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, chest pain, and loss of smell or taste.

What is Long COVID?

Long COVID can affect people of all ages and can occur even in individuals who had mild or asymptomatic COVID-19. The exact cause of long COVID is still unknown, and there is currently no cure for the condition.

However, researchers and healthcare professionals are actively studying the condition to better understand its mechanisms and develop effective treatments.

When recuperating from an illness, it’s typical to experience some level of fatigue, both physically and mentally. This is particularly true if the symptoms have been severe and debilitating. Ordinarily, however, most individuals recover within a few days.

This is not always the case with Covid-19, as some people may experience a mental fog marked by poor clarity and difficulty concentrating. This state can endure for several weeks or even months.

What is long COVID: consequences of Covid-19

Numerous studies and research have been conducted since the outbreak of the pandemic. The purpose is to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms, symptoms. And consequences of Covid-19 infection, which were initially unpredictable in many ways.

Following the emergency phase – where the primary objective was to save as many lives as possible – attention has turned to the medium- and long-term effects of the disease.

These effects have been identified, and efforts have been made to understand their causes and manifestations.

What is long COVID: what is mental fog?

One of the significant consequences of Covid-19 is the “mental fog” or “cognitive fog”, which is accompanied by other consequences. Such as cardiovascular disorders, low-grade systemic inflammation, fatigue, and insomnia. Covid-19 is also known to cause damage to the heart.

Mental fog is a condition that can arise following a Coronavirus infection, regardless of its variant.

It is a neurological consequence that has been observed to affect approximately 20 percent of individuals who have contracted the virus. Mental fog is a common symptom reported by survivors of Covid-19. And it can manifest as short-term or long-term physical, psychological, or neurological effects. Interestingly, mental fog does not discriminate by age or the severity of the infection. As it can affect both young and old individuals, including those who have experienced mild cases of Covid-19.

Most frequently reported symptoms associated with mental fog

The most frequently reported symptoms associated with mental fog include challenges with concentration. Also, memory decline which can result in difficulty recalling information or following through with requests.

Additionally, individuals experiencing mental fog may find it difficult to articulate themselves. And have trouble finding the right words during conversations or public speaking.

This can be accompanied by feelings of mental confusion, cognitive fatigue, disorientation, and poor mental clarity.

The duration of mental fog varies depending on the individual, with differences in severity and duration. Some people experience mild cognitive fog, while others have more severe symptoms that greatly affect their daily lives.

Individuals may describe their mental state as feeling slightly groggy. Similar to someone who has not had enough sleep or who is experiencing jet lag from a time zone change.

What is the cause of mental fog?

The length of time that cognitive fog lasts also varies widely. Some people may only experience symptoms for a few weeks. While others may have it for several months or even years.

However, it appears that the issue is reversible and will resolve on its own.

Since the pandemic began, the incidence of brain fog has risen significantly, indicating that the virus is a major factor in the development of this condition.

However, this issue was not unknown to experts. As other illnesses such as mononucleosis, herpes virus infections, and neurological disorders can also trigger it.

Cognitive function can also be disrupted by severe stress, certain medications (such as antihistamines and chemotherapy), sleep deprivation, and hormonal changes.

Regarding the causes of brain fog, current knowledge remains speculative, and no definite conclusions have been drawn. One widely accepted theory, is that the decline in cognitive clarity is due to inflammation in the blood vessels that supply the brain with blood and nutrients, which is related to the body’s immune response triggered by the virus.

According to a recent study conducted by the University of Milan in collaboration with the “Aldo Ravelli” Center at Statale University. And also ASST Santi Paolo e Carlo, and IRCCS Auxologico, some patients with persistent cognitive impairment after Covid-19 exhibited reduced functioning in the temporal areas responsible for memory function; brainstem regulating attention and balance, and prefrontal areas regulating mental energy, motivation, and behavior.

Similarly, a research team from the University of Oxford found that Covid-19 can cause a reduction in brain tissue thickness. Particularly in areas involved in memory management and executive functions. Furthermore, a study by Stanford and Yale Universities found that the inflammatory state triggered by Covid-19 can affect the brain’s balance.

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What is long Covid: how to solve mental fog?

It is believed that mental fog after Covid-19 is likely due to a combination of various mechanisms and factors.

At present, there are no established treatments to alleviate cognitive fog after Covid-19. However, experts recommend adopting a healthier lifestyle. Such as consuming a balanced diet, getting more sleep, resting, engaging in physical activities, and practicing relaxation and meditation techniques.

Another helpful measure is to check vitamin B levels, which play a vital role in nerve processes. If you find a deficiency, you can take supplements to address it. In certain cases, your doctor may also recommend medications that can regulate inflammation.

To better understand Long Covid, its causes, and effective treatments that can help those affected by this condition, we need to conduct further research.

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