Many symptoms associated with long COVID may be linked to effects on the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is a central nerve in the body.
What is the vagus nerve?
The vagus nerve is a vital central nerve. The nerve runs from the brain into the body. It connects to the heart, lungs, intestines, and several swallowing muscles.
The vagus nerve plays a role in several critical body functions. These include heart rate, speech, gag reflex, sweating, and digestion.
People who have long COVID that effects the vagus nerve will likely face long-term issues. These issues could range from their voice, difficultly swallowing, dizziness, high heart rate, low blood pressure, and diarrhea.
Has it been studied?
Researchers from the University Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol in Spain conducted a study. The study looked at how the vagus nerve was functioning in patients with long COVID.
Out of 348 patients, roughly 66% had at least one symptom that suggested dysfunction of the critical nerve.
The researchers also did a broad evaluation with imaging and functional tests for 22 patients at the university’s long COVID clinic.
Of the 22 patients, 20 of them were women, and the median age was 44. The most common symptoms linked to vagus nerve dysfunction include:
- diarrhea- 73%
- high heart rates- 59%
- dizziness- 45%
- swallowing problems- 45%
- voice problems- 45%
- low blood pressure- 14%
19 out of 22 patients had at least three symptoms of nerve dysfunction. Symptoms lasted about 14 months on average.
Six of the 22 patients had a change in the vagus nerve in the neck. Researchers observed this by ultrasound. They had a thickening of the nerve, which suggests inflammation.
10 of 22 patients had flattened “diaphragmatic curves” during a thoracic ultrasound. This means that the diaphragm doesn’t move as well as it should when you breathe.
13 patients reported trouble swallowing. Eight of the patients couldn’t move food from their esophagus to the stomach. Nine patients reported acid reflux, and another three reported a hiatal hernia.
The study is ongoing. The full paper is not available yet, as it is awaiting peer-review.
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