Long COVID has more neurological effects than previously thought

Growing bodies of research continue to shed light on the effects of long COVID-19, including some that is leading one University of California Los Angeles physician, William Pittman, MD, to now say the condition is "a neurological disease" just as much as it is "a pulmonary disease."

The research guiding long COVID studies, according to Scientific American, stems from previous work that examined the effects of viruses like HIV that can sometimes lead to neurological damage.

In general, before it was widely regarded as a condition, patients reporting long COVID symptoms were often dismissed, The Atlantic reports. At first, until more was known, those who reported long-term neurological side effects continued to be dismissed even after the condition was more understood, Scientific American reports. Then, the culmination of patients experiencing long COVID and compounding reports of things like brain fog, extreme fatigue, malaise and cognitive issues made UCLA realize the extent of what was happening.

"We started getting to a place of sorting through what was really going on … and it became very evident at that time that neuropsychiatric symptoms were quite prevalent," Helen Lavretsky, MD, a psychiatrist and professor at UCLA, told Scientific American.

The dismissal of many who initially experienced symptoms has garnered serious attention and is what led the National Institutes of Health to establish robust research efforts around the condition. 

Although the COVID-19 emergency is set to expire in May, many say the research into the effects of long COVID is far from over. Even though efforts are being made to explore its impacts further, long COVID still "lacks a universal clinical definition and a standard diagnosis protocol; there's no consensus on its prevalence, or even what symptoms fall under its purview," according to The Atlantic

Though more medical experts now see long COVID as a serious condition, the term still, as of now, remains more of a "catch-all" or "an umbrella term" because scientists still have not come to a consensus about "the number of subtypes that fall within it and how, exactly, each might manifest," according to The Atlantic.


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