To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders
Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock
Long covid is a term used to describe the effects of coronavirus that persist for weeks or months beyond the initial illness.
The Office for National Statistics estimates long covid affects between 10 and 25 per cent of people who get the disease, with more than one million Britons estimated to be living with the condition.
Now, researchers at the University of Cambridge say that as many as seven in 10 people with long covid have problems with memory and concentration.
A study compared those with long covid to those without, and found people with the condition performed worse on cognitive tests.
It's thought that the severity of symptoms is linked to the level of fatigue, dizziness and headache people experienced while unwell with the virus.
Three quarters have reported struggling so much, they are unable to work for long periods. Meanwhile, half of long covid sufferers say they struggle to get doctors to take it seriously.
Dr Lucy Cheke, the study’s senior author, said: “Long covid has received very little attention politically or medically.
“It urgently needs to be taken more seriously, and cognitive issues are an important part of this.
“When politicians talk about ‘living with covid’ – that is, unmitigated infection, this is something they ignore.
“The impact on the working population could be huge.
“People think that long covid is ‘just’ fatigue or a cough, but cognitive issues are the second most common symptom - and our data suggest this is because there is a significant impact on the ability to remember.
“There is growing evidence that covid-19 impacts the brain, and our findings reflect that.
“Infection with the virus that causes covid-19 can lead to inflammation in the body, and this inflammation can affect behaviour and cognitive performance in ways we still don’t fully understand, but we think are related to an early excessive immune response.
“It is important that people seek help if they’re concerned about any persistent symptoms after covid infection.
“Covid can affect multiple systems and further assessment is available in long covid clinics across the UK, following a GP referral.”
The study looked at 181 people and found that 78 per cent reported difficulty concentrating, while 69 per cent said they got brain fog, 68 per cent said they experienced forgetfulness and three in five reported problems finding the right words.
Participants took part in a range of tasks, including remembering words in a list and remembering which two images appeared together.
Researchers found that even in those who were not admitted to hospital, people who had more severe initial symptoms were more likely to have ongoing symptoms of long covid, such as nausea, abdominal pain, chest tightness and breathing issues weeks or months later.
Long covid sufferer Lyn Curtis, 52, said: “Having been fit and active all my life, after catching covid-19 during the first wave, my son (then 13) and I didn’t seem to recover.
“We were left with debilitating fatigue and a confusing mix of strange and life changing symptoms.
“I was also left with significant neurological symptoms, including speech and language issues, which had a huge impact on my life.
“My other children also experienced significant ongoing symptoms every time we were re-infected, such as changes to periods, fatigue, insomnia, changes in mood, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and nose bleeds.
“The acknowledgement of long covid and a greater understanding of the associated symptoms is essential both for identifying treatments and the management of existing symptoms.
“The work into the effects on cognition are especially important to me, as this is the ongoing symptom that impacts the most on my quality of life and ability to work."
The majority of participants - recruited between October 2020 and March 2021 - caught covid six months or longer before they took part and very few had been hospitalised.
A further 185 people who have never had the disease took part as a control group.
Work is being done to recruit new participants to test how the findings differ in those with variants Delta and Omicron.