By Tamsin Brown • 21 January 2022 • 11:13
More than 67% of those affected by long COVID experience memory problems, such as Alicia Negrón, who has three master’s degrees and now has trouble reading and other difficulties.
The 39-year-old nurse Alicia Negrón speaks slowly, partly because she gets tired and needs to catch her breath, and partly because she has difficulty finding the words. “I have it in my head but I can’t get it out,” she told 20minutos. “I write down what I’ve done… otherwise I don’t remember. I have loads of alarms,” she added.
Cases such as this one are more common than initially thought. At the last annual meeting of the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN), held at the end of 2021, experts presented numerous investigations on the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on the neurological health of those infected. In those who suffer from long COVID, like Alicia, the symptoms are not only experienced during the initial infection, but also once the patient has recovered.
Studies have concluded that more than 67% of those affected by what is known as long COVID have memory and concentration problems; 61% suffer from headaches; 67% have muscle aches and 49% experience dizziness. Data indicates that these patients account for more than 3% of new consultations with neurology services.
Alicia became infected at the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, when it was thought that young people would barely be affected by the virus. But weeks went by and she did not get better. “I couldn’t get out of bed. I had a constant temperature of 38-39 for months, and then intermittently, several times a week, for a year. This is very scary because you don’t know what’s happening to you,” she said.
The worst is over, but she is still not completely better. “Before I got sick, I worked full-time. I was a nurse responsible for health centres, a mother, I did three master’s degrees and a specialisation… And suddenly I can barely read. Now I’m better but I’m talking about the last two months. I couldn’t even watch TV series. I didn’t understand anything,” she stated. She also added that any intellectual effort made her fever worse.
The nurse, who has also developed eye and heart problems, had no underlying medical conditions but has spent two years going to different appointments. Two neurologists have seen her and tests have not revealed the cause. “They tell me I’m fine. No. The test is fine. That doesn’t mean that nothing is happening to me,” she complained.
Specialists such as Jesús Porta, co-director of the Spanish Society of Neurology, still do not fully understand such symptoms but remain hopeful that they are reversible. Alicia also remains hopeful that she can gradually return to normal life.
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Originally from London, Tamsin is based in Malaga and is a local reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering Spanish and international news.
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