Most people who suffer from COVID-19 recover in one or two weeks and return to normal function, but relatively large percentages of patients suffer symptoms for much longer.
Two studies released this month reveal how COVID-19 can cause neuropathy.
Fortunately the same method works well to heal neuropathy caused by COVID-19 as neuropathy caused by all other causes.
In the first of the two, published in the journal Pain, the researchers discovered that COVID-19 could cause neuropathy independently of diabetes and other neuropathy risks.
The team from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recruited 1,556 volunteers who tested for COVID-19 at their medical center in the first year of the pandemic, 542 who tested positive and 1,014 who tested negative.
What did they find?
1. 28 percent of COVID-19 patients experienced neuropathy in their extremities in the first 90 days after diagnosis, compared with 12 percent of those without COVID-19.
2. In the positive and negative groups, 6.1 percent versus 1.9 percent respectively reported suffering from neuropathy 90 days after their diagnoses.
3. While 24.2 percent of the COVID-19 patients reported pain in their extremities, only 9.8 percent of the healthy people did so.
4. People with COVID-19 were more than three times as likely to develop neuropathy and pain than people without COVID.
The percentages of people with neuropathy are even higher in patients with long COVID-19, according to the second study published in the journal Neurology Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation.
For this study, performed in Boston, the scientists analyzed data from patients sent to Massachusetts General Hospital for long COVID-19 symptoms, such as chronic fatigue and peripheral neuropathy, that would not clear up.
None of their 17 subjects had other risk factors for neuropathy and they were all tracked for an average of 1.4 years to see how their problems were treated and whether they were resolved.
Their findings were alarming:
1. 59 percent were diagnosed with neuropathy: 63 percent tested positive via skin biopsies, 17 percent via electrodiagnostic tests, and 50 percent via autonomic function tests.
2. 52 percent reported some improvement during the 1.4-year follow-up, but none reported a complete resolution of the problem.
3. 65 percent received corticosteroids or other drugs that affected their immune systems. Because none of them reported a complete resolution of symptoms, these drugs clearly did not work.
4. As different immunotherapies had different results, the researchers speculated that the neuropathy was probably due to the participants’ immune systems going awry during their COVID-19 responses.
Therefore, neuropathy seems to be a symptom of long COVID-19.