Study Says Long COVID May Cause Face Blindness

Editor’s note: Find the latest long COVID news and guidance in Medscape’s Long COVID Resource Center.

COVID-19 is known to cause some people to lose taste and smell, and to instill “brain fog,” as well.

Now, new research published in Cortex, links it to face blindness – or prosopagnosia — the inability to recognize faces.

“Self-report survey data from 54 respondents with long COVID showed that a majority reported reductions in visual recognition and navigation abilities,” researchers wrote. “COVID-19 can produce severe and selective neuropsychological impairment similar to deficits seen following brain damage, and it appears that high-level visual impairments are not uncommon in people with long COVID.”

It isn’t known how many people have face blindness. Some are born with it, while others lose the ability to identify faces from brain damage typically caused by a stroke or brain injury,  USA Today  reported. 

Facial recognition is formed in six areas of each side of the brain, and damage to any of them – particularly on the right side – can limit facial recognition.

Another study found more than 1% of people have difficulty recognizing faces. Some can’t keep up with TV shows because actors look alike. And the condition can cause social situations to be awkward. In extreme cases, people with the condition are unable to recognize themselves.

The researchers wrote about a participant in the study, a 28-year-old woman they called only Annie.

She got COVID-19 in March 2020. She recovered enough to start working from home by mid-April 2020. When she saw her family for the first time, that June, she couldn’t recognize her father or tell him apart from an uncle.

“My dad’s voice came out of a stranger’s face,” she told researchers.

Annie reported difficulty navigating her grocery store and finding her car in the parking lot. She also has common symptoms of long COVID – fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and migraines.


Cortex: “Persistent prosopagnosia following COVID-19”

USA Today: “Long COVID has some weird symptoms. Face blindness may be one of them.”

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