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Long Covid symptoms may be linked to nerve damage, a small study suggests

0 2 years ago

A study published Tuesday could offer new clues about a potential cause of long Covid-19 symptoms — and possible avenues for treatment.

The small, 17-person study, led by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the National Institutes of Health, examined the many symptoms behind long Covid and found they may, in part, be driven by long-term nerve damage.

Anne Louise Oaklander, associate professor of neurology at Harvard University, led the study, which lasted from 2020 to 2021. She cautioned, however, that these are “preliminary results” from a very small and “biased data set,” since the patients her team studied were already believed to have a neurological condition by their doctors.

Nevertheless, the study’s findings could get researchers a small step closer to understanding what causes long Covid, a term the World Health Organization said “refers collectively to the constellation of long-term symptoms that some people experience after they have had Covid-19.”

Evaluations of the 17 patients studied found evidence of peripheral neuropathy in 59 percent of them, or 10 people. A neurological disorder, peripheral neuropathy is a general term for damage to the nerves that connect the brain to the outside world. Common symptoms include weakness, fatigue sensory changes and pain in the hands and feet.

“What we asked is, could some of what’s going on with long-haul Covid actually reflect an undiagnosed peripheral neuropathy?” Oaklander said. Her results, she continued, indicated that small-fiber neuropathy, meaning damage done to peripheral nerve fibers, was the most common form.


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