Mental confusion, loss of focus and memory: how to deal with

A week after having covid-19 for the first time, at the end of January, software engineer Henrique Black, 26, has already started to feel changes in the functioning of the mind. The young Recife native was left with confused speech and began to lose his line of reasoning and forget what he was talking about. “I think the part that bothers me the most is the lack of focus that comes with feeling lost. It’s terrible for carrying out an activity,” he comments. He had to deal with all of this in the first week of his new job, where he essentially works with logic, which was a challenge in itself. What he did not expect, however, is that the symptoms would persist to this day, six months later.

“I feel really sad about it, because I’ve always been a person with a very good memory. I’ve always been into logical thinking games – crossword puzzles, word searches, tangram, Einstein’s test. And I even felt that after the covid it also got worse: I became a slower player, with more difficulty in completing the games”, he laments. At the same moment, Henrique rectifies himself: ” that’s what I just did. ‘. I meant ‘finish’, but the words get mixed up a lot in my head.”

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Henrique is not the only one facing neurological sequelae as a result of covid-19. Reports of people experiencing mental confusion, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, brain fog, decreased sense of smell (parosmia) and taste distortion after having a condition of the disease, even if mild, are common.

Scientific research translates this reality into numbers: a study by the University of São Paulo, conducted by Hospital das Clínicas with 750 patients, showed preliminarily in 2021 that about 70% of patients who had covid-19 continue with some type of sequel after a year of hospital discharge.

In six months, the consequences of covid-19 have not gone away for Henrique Black, 26 / Personal archive

Another research, published in the same year by Northwestern University, in the United States, and carried out with 100 people, revealed that 85% of patients who had prolonged symptoms of covid-19 and were not hospitalized had four or more neurological sequelae that affect your quality of life.

and why this happens?

Doctor Evônio Campelo, an infectious disease specialist at the Hospital das Clínicas of the Federal University of Pernambuco (HC-UFPE), explains that, unlike other viruses such as H1N1, which affect only the respiratory system, Sars-CoV-2 also compromises other systems of the respiratory system. body. That’s why you see patients with heart impairments or cognitive changes.

“Coronavirus has an affinity for the central nervous system (CNS). It goes to the CNS and not only destroys some cells, but also disorganizes their physiology. This leads to the emergence of several sequelae and aggravation of some pathologies, such as severe depression and bipolar disorder”, he details.

But is it reversible?

At Hospital das Clínicas, in Recife, Evônio Campelo opened an outpatient clinic to care for patients with lasting symptoms of covid-19 – what he calls “long covid”. In this space, he treats hundreds of people who report worsening of depression, bipolar disorders, the emergence of parosmia and, mainly, memory loss. “There are many cases of people who have had [covid] lightly, it was not only in severe cases”, warns the doctor.

As it is a new disease, the dimension of the neuropsychiatric damage that the coronavirus causes is not yet known. It is not known, for example, whether these sequelae are reversible.

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“We are at the beginning of the understanding of this disease. I tell a lot of people who think that because it’s mild covid, it’s all right. It’s not all right, because we don’t know what will develop in the future. Will it disappear? Will you stay for a while? Some people have so far not regained their sense of smell. But what to do? We have to study more”, says the specialist.

Uncertainty can provoke fear in those affected in this way, but Evonio assures that it is not something to be terrified of. At the same time, Covid-19 should not be trivialized either. “We are advancing with vaccination and lethality has dropped, but it is important that don’t believe it’s a flu. We still don’t understand the repercussions of covid. Try not to contract the disease,” she recommends.

Infectologist doctor reinforces that it is still important to avoid contracting the virus / Ricardo Wolffenbuttel / Agência Brasil

What can I do to improve symptoms?

As much as there is no scientific conclusion on what can alleviate or improve the neuropsychiatric impairments of covid-19, doctors usually make some guidelines.

In the case of alterations in smell, one of the main indications of otolaryngologists was to stimulate the sense with different essences. Some patients were able to smell again with the help of this method. “There are also people who have tried and there has been no improvement. Could it be that there was a very direct lesion in the sensory part?”, asks the infectologist.

Also read: Is it possible to have covid-19 twice in less than 90 days? Experts explain reinfection

In the case of memory disorders, Evonio suggests maintaining habits that exercise the mind. “Stimulate reading, do crossword puzzles, exercise memory, work on reasoning. Trying to look to do something you enjoy, and do it,” he says.

That’s what software engineer Henrique Black has been doing. Optimistic, he is hopeful that things will go back to the way they were this year. “Since I work with logic and I like to have fun with logic, I think by exercising my brain it comes back,” he cheers.

In all cases of persistent symptoms, the ideal is to have specialized medical follow-up. Each clinical picture has its particularity and may even have another disease behind it.

Source: BdF Pernambuco

Editing: Elen Carvalho