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8 in 10 COVID-19 patients suffer neurological symptoms, study finds

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As President Donald Trump battles the coronavirus, researchers reveal concerning new findings: Neurological symptoms occur in 8 of 10 hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

These symptoms include muscle pain, headaches, dizziness, encephalopathy and “brain fog.”

“Encephalopathy, which is characterized by altered mental function ranging from mild confusion to coma, is the most severe neurologic manifestation of COVID-19,” said study co-author Dr. Igor Koralnik. He oversees the Neuro COVID-19 Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

It’s not known whether Trump is suffering from any of these neurological problems. He was admitted Friday to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for treatment of COVID-19. Meanwhile, First Lady Melania Trump and a number of senior U.S. officials have also tested positive for the new coronavirus.

For this new study, the researchers analyzed the charts of more than 500 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 within the Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine health system. The investigators identified neurological symptoms in 42% of patients when their COVID-19 symptoms surfaced, 63% of patients when hospitalized, and 82% of patients at any time during the course of COVID-19.

Many patients reported muscle pain — 45% — and headaches — 38%. Encephalopathy and dizziness were seen in almost one-third of patients. The study also found 16% had taste disorders and 11% had smell disorders.

After discharge from the hospital, only 32% of patients with encephalopathy were able to care for their own affairs, compared to 89% of those who didn’t develop encephalopathy, the findings showed.

Also, the death rate in patients with encephalopathy was much higher — about 22% — than in those without encephalopathy — 3% — according to the study.

“We are now looking to characterize the long-term neurologic effects of COVID-19 and the cognitive outcomes in patients with COVID-19-associated encephalopathy,” Koralnik said in a hospital news release. He is chief of neuro-infectious diseases and global neurology at Northwestern Medicine.

“We’re studying this in patients who are discharged from the hospital, as well as in COVID-19 ‘long-haulers,’ who have never been hospitalized but also suffer from a similar range of neurological problems, including brain fog,” he added.

The report was published Oct. 5 in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. The findings will help shape long-term care for people who suffer from neurological complications of COVID-19, Koralnik said.

“Patients and clinicians need to be aware of the high frequency of neurologic manifestations of COVID-19 and the severity of altered mental function associated with this disease,” he noted.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Pregnant women with COVID-19 don’t pass the virus to their newborns, study finds

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Oct. 12 (UPI) — New mothers infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy didn’t pass the virus to their babies, even if they breastfed and shared the same hospital room, according to a study published Monday by JAMA Pediatrics.

Mothers with severe COVID-19, however, delivered their babies, on average, one week earlier than healthy mothers, and their babies were four times as likely to need phototherapy to treat jaundice, the data showed.

“Between our findings and other studies, it is now known that there is a relatively low likelihood of vertical transmission from [COVID-19]-positive mothers to their newborns,” study co-author and pediatrician Melissa Stockwell told UPI.

“We also show that the risk remains low even with newborns rooming-in and direct breastfeeding practices, both of which had been concerns early in the pandemic,” said Stockwell, division chief of child and adolescent health at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Pregnant women may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and reports have appeared that the risk for preterm delivery is higher among women infected with the virus, according to data released in June by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There remains a concern for the effect of this virus on pregnant women,” study co-author Dr. Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at NewYork Presbyterian, told UPI.

However, no indication exists — at least to date — that their newborns are at any risk from the virus.

To explore the issue further, the Columbia University researchers tested 101 babies born to infected mothers in New York City between March 13 and April 24 — the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in the region.

Two of the babes had low levels of the virus in their nasal and throat samples initially, but neither developed symptoms, and they later tested negative, the researchers said.

The remainder all tested negative at birth and, and the 31 infants who were retested several days later remained negative. All 101 babies “roomed in” — or shared the same hospital rooms as their mothers — and bathing was delayed, the researchers said.

Some studies have recommended early bathing of babies born to mothers with COVID-19 as a way to reduce risk for virus spread, but early bathing has other health risks, including hypothermia, they said.

Three of the 10 babies born to mothers with severe COVID-19, however, required phototherapy, while six of 91 born to mothers with mild to moderate disease required the treatment, the data showed.

“Treating babies as babies seems safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” study co-author Dr. Dani Dumitriu told UPI.

“This is particularly important given the continued spread of COVID-19 throughout the country and around the world,” said Dumitriu, a neonatologist at New York-Presbyterian.



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Study: Nearly one in three U.S. college students smokes pot

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Oct. 12 (UPI) — Nearly one-third of all college students in the United States smoke marijuana, a study published Monday by JAMA Pediatrics found.

Roughly twice as many — 62% — drink alcohol, the data showed.

At the same time, the number of students who say they abstain from both has increased to 28% from just under 20% in the early 2000s.

The percentage of college students who meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder also has declined to 10% over the same period from just under 20%, they said.

“Abstinence from both alcohol and marijuana have increased,” study co-author Ty Schepis,, professor of psychology at Texas State University, told UPI.

And “the number of young adults with alcohol use disorders has significantly declined, [and] the same is true with combined alcohol and marijuana use disorders,” he said.

The findings are based on an analysis of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for the period of 2002 through 2018, which included information on alcohol and marijuana consumption for between 7,000 and 11,000 young adults annually.

In 2018, 31% of college students reported using marijuana, up from 27% in 2002, the data showed.

However, the percentage of students who met the criteria for marijuana use disorder remained stable over the study period, at about 6%, the researchers said.

Marijuana use disorder is a “problematic pattern of … use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress,” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Although 62% of college students drank alcohol in 2018, a slight increase from 60% in 2002, the number who met the criteria for alcohol use disorder dropped by half over the same period, the data showed.

People with alcohol use disorder find that “drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfere[s] with taking care of [their] home or family” and causes problems at work, school or home, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Still, the percentage of students who reported co-use of alcohol and marijuana increased to 24% in 2018 from 17% in 2002. Young adults who were not in college reported roughly the same rates of alcohol and marijuana use, the researchers said.

“It is helpful for parents to know about the changes in the substance use landscape among adolescents and young adults,” study co-author Sean Esteban McCabe told UPI. “These findings remind us that we need comprehensive plans for the full continuum of relationships people have with substances,” he said.

“Parents can play a key role by having candid conversations with their kids about how they fit into the substance use landscape and discuss how their strategies are working during challenging times,” said McCabe, director of the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health.



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Weight-loss surgery may cut pancreatic cancer risk in people with diabetes

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Weight-loss surgery significantly reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer in obese people with diabetes, a new study finds.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 20 years of data from 1.4 million people, including more than 10,000 who’d had weight-loss surgery. About three-quarters of those who had weight-loss surgery were women.

People who’d had weight-loss surgery were less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who hadn’t had the surgery (0.19% versus 0.32%), the investigators found.

“Obesity and diabetes are well-known risk factors for pancreatic cancer via chronic inflammation, excess hormones and growth factors released by body fat,” said study author Dr. Aslam Syed, of the division of gastroenterology at Allegheny Health Network, in Pittsburgh, Pa.

“Previously, bariatric [weight-loss] surgery has been shown to improve high blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, and our research shows that this surgery is a viable way in reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer in this growing, at-risk group,” Syed explained.

The findings were to be presented Monday at the United European Gastroenterology virtual meeting. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The findings are particularly timely as rates of diabetes, obesity and pancreatic cancer are on the rise, the study authors said in a meeting news release.

Preventing pancreatic cancer is crucial because there haven’t been improvements in the survival of the disease for four decades, Syed added.

“The average survival time at diagnosis is particularly bleak for this silent killer, at just 4.6 months, with patients losing 98% of their healthy life expectancy. Only 3% of patients survive more than five years,” he said.

Syed said clinicians should consider weight-loss surgery in patients with metabolic disorders to help reduce the risk and burden of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is often called a silent killer because symptoms — which include pain in the back or stomach, jaundice and unexplained weight loss — can be hard to identify, making early diagnosis difficult.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on pancreatic cancer.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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