The coronavirus pandemic took the lives of 4.1 million individuals all across the globe. This respiratory disease can cause mild symptoms in some people while others suffer from severe infection which leads to hospitalization or even death. Even though the symptoms subside after weeks in most patients, others live with its effects for months. The condition in which the symptoms persist even after the acute phase of infection has passed is known as long Covid-19.
Recently, researchers conducted a study that shows that a special eye exam can help in the diagnosis of long Covid-19. According to the researchers, an increase in the number of immune cells and a decrease in nerve fibers in the cornea may indicate the possibility of this condition.
This study appeared recently in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
Even though Covid-19 is an infection of the lungs, it can damage other organs as well. Most people with long Covid report symptoms such as muscular pain, palpitations, fatigue, and tiredness. They also find it difficult to focus at times and often experience breathlessness.
According to the researchers, the coronavirus infection can also affect the nervous system and cause symptoms such as headache and dizziness. The patients of Covid also report loss of taste and smell, numbness, and dizziness. Even though researchers are not sure about the cause of these symptoms, some of them speculate that the coronavirus also transmits to the nervous system.
The researchers also guessed that the coronavirus infection may damage the nerve fiber. Previously, the researchers behind this study found the link between fibromyalgia and neuropathy with nerve fiber damage in the cornea. They analyzed the cornea of the participants with the help of corneal confocal microscopy. This process showed the damage to the nerve fibers and the presence of immune cells in the cornea.
Recently, these researchers conducted another study to see if those people with long Covid have the same nerve fiber damage and increase in immune cells in the cornea. The senior author of this study, Dr. Rayaz A. Malik said that the neurological symptoms during long Covid are not as much appreciated. He also mentioned that nearly 10% of the patients live with long Covid-19 after recovering from the acute phase of the infection.
This latest study included 40 participants who contracted the coronavirus over the past 1-6 months. The researchers also recruited 30 participants as the control group. Those participants who contracted the virus filled a questionnaire. In this questionnaire, the participants reported the symptoms they experienced after 4 and 12 weeks of the diagnosis of coronavirus infection.
The researchers designed the questionnaire and included questions including respiratory and neurological symptoms. They also included questions about the symptoms related to muscular issues, nose, skin, and gastrointestinal problems.
Later, they conducted corneal confocal microscopy on every participant and compared their scans. The researchers looked at the differences among the scans of those who recovered from coronavirus infection and the participants of the control group.
The findings of this study show that the participants who reported neurological symptoms after 4 weeks had increased immune cells and nerve fiber damage in the cornea. These observations came after the comparison to the participants of the control group. Moreover, those who did not experience any neurological symptoms had the same corneal condition as those of the control group.
This recent research can pave the path for more awareness about the symptoms and diagnosis of late Covid-19. Also, it can help researchers find out more about the transmission of coronavirus infection to different parts of the body.