AUGUSTA, Ga. – New studies now suggest 1 in 3 COVID-19 survivors may suffer long term psychological or neurological disorders. The Medical College of Georgia neurologists are conducting a study to look deeper into the neurological problems people face following COVID-19. They’re following community members in the CSRA for five years to assess the overall neurological effects of the virus. Associate professor of neurology at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Elizabeth Rutkowski, says this long term follow-up is important in order to get a clear picture of COVID-19’s impact.
“So far, we’ve seen that 1/3, very similar to all the other reports. People are having severe mood issues, insomnia, fatigue, brain fog, headaches, and then smell and taste loss,” says Rutkowski.
Researchers say results show brain disease and psychiatric disorders are more common after COVID, especially compared to respiratory infections or the flu. Dr. Rutkowski says experts are still figuring out what the main symptoms of “long COVID” are.
“Certainly, with neurological problems, there does seem to be a specific type of long COVID diagnosis where specific symptoms like brain fog, headaches and mood disorders seem to be the most commonly reported symptom.”
They’re looking to see if these are chronic conditions or if they’ll go away after a few months. “What makes someone susceptible to these long-term outcomes. We’re gathering blood from our participants that are interested and taking a deep look at their genetics. And other risk factors to see if, the African American population, for example, has worse outcomes and if it has something to do with your genetics or whether or not you smoke or exercise and lifestyle factors. So, we’re taking a very broad look at that.”
Even though some studies show some of these long-term symptoms aren’t treatable, she says there is one thing you might be able to do. “The biggest treatment would just be prevention and making sure everyone gets vaccinated and prevent the infection at all because, like I said, some people are asymptomatic from the acute infection and then a few weeks later they have new, debilitating neurological problems. That’s the thing everyone scared about.”
Dr. Rutkowski says they’re hoping to recruit between 500 and 1000 participants in the CSRA who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past month. If you’d like to learn how to become a participant in this trial, click here.