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A study links persistent covid fatigue with anxiety and depression for the first time

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A team of researchers from the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and of Hospital of Santa Creu i Sant Pau (Barcelona) has revealed the close relationship between fatigue, depression, anxiety and other cognitive deficits in patients with persistent covid. “Persistent fatigue is a very disabling thing and greatly limits people’s quality of life. If a person suffers from covid fatigueit’s important to go further and see what other symptoms or disorders are associated with this condition,” according to Marco Calabriaprincipal investigator of the article

Fatigue, shortness of breath, or cognitive dysfunction, are the most common symptoms of persistent covid, according to the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO). Symptoms must be present for at least two months and three months after the onset of the disease for are considered direct sequels of the coronavirus. A recent study with the participation of the UOC -published in the scientific journal Brain and Behavior- showed that the disease generates a widespread impact attention skills, executive functions, learning and long-term memory.

It is estimated that between 9% and 49% of patients experience fatigue four weeks after the onset of symptoms.

In fact, they explain from the UOC, the scientific literature estimates that between 9% and 49% of patients have fatigue four weeks after from the onset of symptoms, and can even persist for a year in at least a third of patients. However, whether or not there was a connection between fatigue and anxiety or depression in patients with persistent covid It is something that has not been studied.

a close relationship

Now, the research of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, published openly in the Journal of Neurology, reveals that fatigue in postcovid patients is related to suffering from anxiety, depression and apathy. “Persistent fatigue is a very disabling and severely limits people’s quality of life. If a person suffers from covid fatigue, it is important to go further and see what other symptoms or disorders are associated with this condition”, according to Marco Calabria, principal investigator of the article, member of the Cognitive NeuroLab group at the UOC and professor of Studies of Health Sciences.

Scientists studied 136 coronavirus patients suffering from cognitive deficits eight months after get the virus. They found that fatigue is associated “with sustained attention, which we use to perform a task for a long time and keeps us focusedas well as with executive functions, which allow us to keep information temporarily stored in order to be able to do tasks such as calculating or reworking a sentence that we have heard”.

Known link between fatigue and depressionthe researcher Marco Calabria stresses that “clinicians should explore these issues to guide therapeutic guidelines”. But something that the research he leads has not clarified is the direction of the effect: “it is not clear if fatigue is what generates depression or vice versa”, he explains.

The effects of the pandemic

Fatigue is characterized due to excessive fatigue and physical or cognitive and muscular weakness. It has been associated with medical conditions such as post-viral infections or neurological diseases. But, although it could be drawn in a broad way, there is no universally accepted definition of this clinical condition, and the knowledge about its underlying pathogenic mechanism is limited, so it represents a clinical challenge for experts.

The scientists studied whether, in the first waves of the pandemic, isolation contributed to an increase in some symptoms.

Another challenge for the team of scientists was to separate postcovid fatigue from the impact experienced during the pandemic. “Fatigue is a symptom related to viral infections and this indicated to us that it would be one of the possible symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection”, explains Calabria, for whom it is possible that, in the first waves of the pandemic, the isolation would contribute increase some symptoms.

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However, some observations indicated that this is not always the case: for many people, fatigue prevents them from returning to the life they had before; others continue to suffer from this fatigue despite being able to return to pre-pandemic conditions and, in the case of apathy associated with the coronavirus, the researchers were able to verify that its prevalence exceeded 17% before infection 62% after infection.

Many unanswered questions

Study Results They emphasize the importance of a holistic approach to assess and consider potential treatment for covid-19 patients experiencing fatigue. But, they warn, there are still many unanswered questions. For example, the main researcher of the study points out, how these changes are reflected at the brain level, how long they last, who is more susceptible to suffering from these symptoms for a long time or what are the individual characteristics that predict a recovery. All these questions, he concludes, will be answered as time goes on, “because it is something new and unknown”.

More than a million people can develop persistent covid in Spain, associated in most cases with symptoms such as fatigue and headache.

In the last report of the Multidisciplinary Working Group (GTM), which advises the Ministry of Science and supports the government in scientific matters related to covid-19 Since the start of the pandemic, it is estimated that more of a million people can develop persistent covid in Spain, associated in most cases with symptoms such as fatigue and headacheand although it can affect all groups that have had the disease, the most likely candidates are adults between 30 and 50 years of age and women.

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