Background: Autonomic dysfunction including sudomotor abnormalities have been reported in association with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Objective: There are no previous studies that have compared autonomic function objectively in patients pre- and post- SARS-CoV-2 infection. We aimed to identify if SARS-CoV-2 virus is triggering and/or worsening dysautonomia by comparing autonomic function tests in a group of patients pre-and post-SARS-CoV-2 infection. Design/methods: Six participants were enrolled and divided into two groups. The first group of 4 participants reported worsened autonomic symptoms post-SARS-CoV-2 infection. These individuals had their first autonomic test prior to COVID-19 pandemic outbreak (July 2019–December 2019). Autonomic function testing was repeated in these participants, 6 months to 1-year post-SARS-CoV-2 infection (June 2021). The second group of 2 participants reported new-onset autonomic symptoms post-COVID-19 infection and were also tested within 6 months post-SARS-CoV-2 infection. All participants had mild COVID-19 infection per WHO criteria. They had no evidence of large fiber neuropathy as demonstrated by normal neurophysiological studies (EMG/NCS). They were all screened for known causes of autonomic dysfunction and without risk factors of hypertension/hyperlipidemia, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes/prediabetes, vitamin deficiencies, history of HIV, hepatitis, or syphilis, prior radiation or chemical exposure or evidence of monoclonal gammopathy, or autoimmune condition. Results: Participants were female (age: 21-37y) and all endorsed orthostatic intolerance (6/6). Gastrointestinal symptoms (⅚), new-onset paresthesias, (3/6), and sexual dysfunction (2/6) were reported. Parasympathetic autonomic function remained stable 6-months to 1-year post-COVID-19 infection and no parasympathetic dysfunction was demonstrated in participants with new-onset dysautonomia symptoms. Postural orthostatic tachycardia was noted in half of the patients, being observed in one patient pre- SARS-CoV-2 infection and persisting post-SARS-CoV-2 infection; while new-onset postural tachycardia was observed in 1/3rd of patients. Sympathetic cholinergic (sudomotor) dysfunction was demonstrated in ALL participants. Worsened, or new-onset, sudomotor dysfunction was demonstrated in those with mild or normal sudomotor function on pre-COVID-19 autonomic testing. Conclusions: Sympathetic adrenergic and cholinergic dysautonomia probably account for some of the symptoms of Long COVID-19. Sudomotor dysfunction was demonstrated as consistently worsened or new-sequelae to COVID-19 infection. COVID-19 may be responsible for triggering new-onset or worsened small-fiber neuropathy in this sample, supporting previously reported studies with similar findings. However, the findings in our study are preliminary, and studies with larger sample size are needed to confirm these observations.
Available online 26 January 2023, 100445