An investigation focused on 817 older adults with COVID-19 concluded that delirium is a common symptom of the COVID-19 coronavirus. This was determined by a group of American scientists who observed that 226 elderly -28% of the sample- were diagnosed with delirium after the acute phase of the disease.
As they warned, it is present in one out of every three cases in those over 65 years of age. The group studied had a average age of 78 years, and 84 patients with signs of this mental picture (37% of the total) did not have any typical or frequent symptoms of the new coronavirus, such as fever or difficulty breathing.
During the study, 84 patients with diagnosed delirium died in the hospitals where they were hospitalized and the researchers warned that this symptom -described by the Mayo Clinic as a serious alteration of mental abilities that generates confused thoughts and a decrease in their awareness of the environment- increased the risk of death by 24% and the probability of admission to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) by 67%.
The group of researchers from Hospital General de Massachusetts teamed up with scientists from the Harvard University to delve into the relationship between confirmed cases, deaths, and delirium itself.
The onset of delirium is usually rapid, within hours to a few days, and can usually be due to one or more contributing factors, such as severe or chronic illness, changes in metabolic balance (such as low sodium), medications , infection, surgery, or intoxication or withdrawal from alcohol or drugs ”, says Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of delirium and dementia can be similarTherefore, it is important for the doctor to obtain information from family members or the person responsible for the care, and thus reach an exact diagnosis, they highlight.
For their part, they add from Medlineplus, this condition causes confusion, disorientation and not being able to think or remember clearly.
The condition is caused by problems in the brain and can make people more likely to become seriously ill or die in the hospital because their bodies generally become weaker and less able to recover, and the effects on the brain can be long-lasting or permanent. The study was recently published in the JAMA Network Open journal and looked at 817 COVID-19 cases in people over 65 at seven US hospitals.
Fever was the most common symptom, in more than half (56%) of the cases, closely followed by shortness of breath (51%). 412 of 817 patients – just over 50 percent – were found to have a cough.
Delirium was the sixth most common symptom, behind fever, cough, weakness, hypoxia and shortness of breath. “Factors associated with the risk of delirium included advanced age, previous use of psychoactive medications, residency in a life support center or skilled nursing facility, visual or hearing impairment, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease.” , the researchers highlighted in the scientific document.
“Delirium at presentation was significantly associated with an increased risk of poor hospital outcomes, including ICU stay, discharge to a rehabilitation center, and death”, They pointed out.
The data reveals that people over 75 years of age have a 51% higher risk of developing delirium after infection with the coronavirus, while people with previous vision problems are 98% more likely than the average older adult.
The study showed that it is essential to recognize that older adults with COVID-19 may have delirium as the main or only symptom. “Further, widespread confusion is an important risk marker for identifying patients at high risk for poor outcomes, including death”They warned.
In September, experts running the Covid Symptom Tracker app from King’s College London came across an important and insightful piece of information: one in five (18.9 percent) of those over 65 who ended up in hospital due to COVID-19 said delirium was their only symptom.
The researchers said that the coronavirus could enter the brain and infect it, affecting someone’s mental state. And delirium can also be caused by high levels of white blood cells in the brain or by fever, a separate symptom from Covid-19.
The doctor Rose Penfold, an epidemiologist at King’s, analyzed: “Older and more frail people are at higher risk for COVID-19 than those who are more fit, and our results show that delirium is a key symptom in this group.”.
“Doctors and caregivers should be aware of any changes in the mental state of older people, such as confusion or strange behavior, and be alert to the fact that this could be an early sign of coronavirus infection,” Penfold recommended.
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