CHICAGO - There is new insight on the ongoing suffering for COVID-19 "long haulers," including brain fog so bad they cannot go to work.
Northwestern Medicine just released a first of its kind study into these patients with long-term problems.
When patients turn to the COVID-19 clinic at Northwestern Medicine, they have been suffering for at least six weeks. Researchers discovered the majority of COVID-19 long haulers have multiple neurological issues, with brain fog topping the list.
"You have more difficulties to multitask, you forget things. You're not on top of your game," said Dr. Igor Koralnik, Chief of Neuro-Infectious Diseases at Northwestern Medicine.
Doctor Koralnik says 85 percent of the 100 patients they studied had four or more neurologic symptoms, such as brain fog, headaches, numbness, and loss of taste or smell -- on top of a host of other symptoms.
"About half of the patients missed more than 10 days of work and we don’t have exact numbers but probably millions of people in the US are affected by this syndrome," Dr. Koralnik said.
Seventy-percent of the patients were female, leading researchers to liken it to autoimmune diseases, which affect women more than men. Just like with those diseases, it was tough for some patients to find medical help.
These are not patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19. They all had mild symptoms, so some could not get a test or tested negative.
"And unfortunately, the people who are laboratory negative for SARS-CoV-2 to experience some stigma, sometime rejection that really adds insult to injury, because they suffer just the same as those who are SARS-CoV-2 positive," Dr. Koralnik said.
The research continues at Northwestern Medicine, with one key question stumping Dr. Koralnik: He cannot predict how long "long-haul COVID" could last.