In the aftermath of COVID, an artist found he doesn’t recognize his own father. His strange new symptom: Face blindness

COVID was famous in its early days for its loss of taste and smell. Now, another strange neurological symptom has been documented: loss of the ability to recognize faces.

A report published this month in the journal Cortex describes the case of Annie, a 28-year-old woman who had no problem recognizing faces before contracting COVID in March 2020. Two months later, when her COVID symptoms returned, she began he experienced difficulty recognizing faces.

This is the first documented report of prosopagnosia — a neurological disorder that makes it impossible to recognize faces — after COVID-19, according to the study’s authors.

“Previous studies on the long-term effects of COVID-19 have reported deficits in memory, attention, and concentration that significantly impair daily functioning,” the authors wrote.

But “in addition to the known wide range of impairments, COVID-19 sometimes causes severe impairments such as prosopagnosia.”

In addition, the researchers found similar symptoms – in the form of visual/perceptual and cognitive difficulties – in most of the other long-term COVID patients surveyed.

Annie recovered after an initial illness with COVID in the spring of 2020, the authors wrote. But after a few weeks, he began to feel panicked, and that “something was wrong with the faces.” At a family gathering in June of that year, he noted that he did not know his father, and that he could not speak to him except as his uncle.

“My father’s voice came out of a stranger’s face,” he told researchers, adding that he now relies heavily on his memory of strangers’ voices.

He also struggled in a test where researchers were asked to recognize the faces of celebrities.

For Annie, the new and unusual symptom — apparently tied to long-term COVID — was particularly troubling: She works as a customer service representative and part-time portrait artist. He now finds himself completely dependent on looking at photographs of his subjects while drawing. Before COVID, he only had to refer to a photo once every 15 or 30 minutes while working.

Now, “Faces are like water in my head,” he told the researchers.

Annie now “equals looking and then trying to remember faces to looking at a Chinese character with no knowledge of the language, and then being asked to reproduce them from memory,” the authors wrote. .

But his newfound visual difficulties weren’t limited to faces. He also found himself getting lost in the grocery store, forgetting where he parked, and driving in the opposite direction of where he wanted to go, the authors added.

Annie had other early symptoms of COVID, the authors said, including recurrences of COVID symptoms, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and brain fog. In November 2020, nine months after her first COVID infection, she began experiencing balance issues and frequent migraines, too.

To find out if other long-term COVID sufferers struggle with the same or similar issues, researchers examined a group of 54 others with post-viral illness. They found that most reported significant declines in their ability to recognize people and objects, recognize voices, remember phone numbers, and understand what they read—although they found no additional patients with the exact same condition.

With more than 200 symptoms have been identified—from a lingering cough and fatigue to numbness in the ears and a feeling of “brain on fire”—long-term COVID is undoubtedly not one but many conditions, experts say.

True long-term COVID, some argue, is best defined as a fatigue-exhaustion-syndrome-like condition that develops after infection with COVID, similar to other post-viral syndromes that can occur after infection with herpes, Lyme disease, and Ebola, among. others.

Some post-COVID complications such as organ damage are not necessarily defined as long-term COVID and better fit into the larger umbrella category of PASC, some experts say. Also known as post-acute sequelae of COVID-19the term is used to encompass a wide variety of the consequences of COVID, from symptoms such as fatigue and a series of heart disease of chronic lung damage and strange new symptoms such as urinary incontinence, itching, and skin lesions.

As of Jan. 16, 15% of U.S. adults reported having advanced symptoms of COVID at some point during the pandemic, and 6% reported lingering symptoms, according to a Jan. 26 Kaiser report Family Foundation, citing data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The percentage of Americans who experienced COVID and still reported long-term symptoms of COVID decreased from 19% in June to 11% in January, according to the report.

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