Most people who get COVID-19 recover within a few weeks. But some people, even those who only had a mild case of the disease, might have symptoms that last a long time afterward. This ongoing condition is sometimes called post-COVID-19 syndrome, or more commonly long COVID.
Recent modelling by the University of Tasmania estimates that up to 500,000 people in Australia could be experiencing long COVID by the beginning of December 2022, with more than a fifth of those cases suffering “significant impacts”.
Dr Cysique leads a University of New South Wales team that has been studying the ongoing effects of COVID on the brain since early 2020. The team found that two years on, up to a quarter of the participants had some ongoing cognitive difficulties.
The most commonly reported symptoms of post-COVID-19 syndrome include:
It is not yet clear if post-COVID-19 syndrome is new and unique to COVID-19. However the more common symptoms are very similar to those caused by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and other chronic illnesses that develop after infections. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) can cause various symptoms of inflammation of the brain, including brain fog, lack of refreshing sleep, and things that have a minor effect on the body causing a big impact.
Researchers are now uncovering how Post-Viral Fatigue Syndromes, including Long COVID, can become life-changing diseases and why patients suffer frequent relapses.
In a study published in Frontiers in Neurology, Emeritus Professor Warren Tate of the University of Otago, and colleagues from Otago, Victoria University of Wellington, and University of Technology Sydney, explained how the brain-centred symptoms of these diseases are due to a brain-body connection.
They believe that, following the initial viral infection or a subsequent stressor event, the brain can be affected by either
This causes chronic inflammation of the brain/nervous system, leading to an ongoing illness. Sometimes there will also be an ongoing cycle of mild recovery and relapses.
Their model proposes that the body doesn’t heal and recover because of a continuous signal from the brain to the body, causing the patient to constantly relapse.
Professor Tate advised that “These diseases (CFS and Long COVID) are very closely related, and it is clear the biological basis of Long COVID is unequivocally connected to the original COVID infection – so there should no longer be any debate and doubt about the fact that post viral fatigue syndromes like CFS are biologically based and involve much disturbed physiology.”
“Patients need appropriate affirmation of their biological-based illness, and help to mitigate the distressing symptoms of these very difficult life-changing syndromes which are difficult for the patients to manage by themselves.”
“This work highlighted that there is a susceptible subset of people who develop such syndromes when exposed to a severe stress, like infection with COVID-19, or the glandular fever virus Epstein Barr, or in some people with vaccination that is interpreted as a severe stress.”
In our experience, both Long COVID and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are much more common than people realise. Unfortunately there is no blood test to diagnose these conditions, and conventional medicine has very little to offer these patients.
So we see both of these conditions frequently. We have found the most effective approach is
As with any condition, it is always important to treat the causes of the problem.
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