Study Examines Neurological Symptoms In COVID-19 Long Haulers

A disturbing number of COVID patients become long haulers even after they get over the initial infection. Now, a first-of-its-kind study looks at what neurological symptoms are most common in COVID-19 long haulers; CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reports.

Video Transcript

- A disturbing number of COVID patients become long-haulers even after they get over the initial infection.

- And now, a first-of-its-kind study looks at what neurological symptoms are most common in COVID-19 long-haulers. CBS2's Max Gomez has the details and who is more likely to suffer the problems.

MAX GOMEZ: Sara Buursma was a healthy mother of three before she got COVID-19 last March. The 37-year-old has been dealing with many issues since, from shortness of breath to brain fog.

SARA BUURSMA: It's scary. I don't know what's going on with my health. I've never had health issues. I was always a very active person.

MAX GOMEZ: A new Northwestern Medicine study looked at 100 long-haulers who did not need to be hospitalized with COVID and found their average age was just 43. 70% were women, and 85% experienced four or more neurological symptoms including brain fog, headache, numbness, tingling, disorders of taste and smell, and muscle pain.

IGOR KORALNIK: We think that long COVID is most likely a post-infectious autoimmune problem rather than a persistent infection.

MAX GOMEZ: 42% of patients had anxiety or depression before COVID, suggesting mental health conditions could play a role in some long COVID symptoms. At Northwestern's Neuro COVID-19 Clinic, research is underway to figure out the best way to manage and treat these lingering debilitating symptoms.

IGOR KORALNIK: Patients who are intensely fatigued can get minor stimulants also that can help them. Patients who test below their expected average on cognitive tests can be referred for cognitive rehab.

MAX GOMEZ: Sara's brain fog and shortness of breath are improving with medication.

SARA BUURSMA: Don't settle for someone that, you know, might not know what you're going through or thinks that maybe it's just in your head. Well, it's not.

MAX GOMEZ: Researchers also found 16% of long-haulers had previous autoimmune diseases, which could partly explain why women are more commonly affected than men, since women are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases than men. Dr. Max Gomez, CBS2 News.