When it comes to COVID-19, the word “recovery” is, research sadly suggests, very much a subjective term. Various news outlets have reported on the phenomenon of “long COVID”, where even people who no longer have the coronavirus in their system continue to struggle with various symptoms.
As is well-documented, COVID-19 is – in most instances – a brief and mild disease; however, here are some examples of health issues with which it could leave you even if you recover from the disease.
BBC News has described the most common feature of long COVID as “crippling fatigue”. “My fatigue was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” one sufferer, Jade Gray-Christie, told the news site.
Meanwhile, Nature reports one study where, of 143 people with COVID-19 discharged from a Rome hospital, 53% had revealed to feeling fatigue an average of two months after the onset of their symptoms. Over the same period, 43% of the participants had a shortage of breath.
Shortness of breath
The BBC has cited this as the second most common symptom of long COVID after fatigue, while Dr. Zijian Chen, the medical director of Mount Sinai Health System’s Center for Post-COVID Care, said it was the biggest physical problem the Center saw in patients leaving.
“Some have an intermittent cough that doesn’t go away that makes it hard for them to breathe,” he explained to The New York Times. He added that, though some of these patients were even on nasal oxygen at home, this was not proving sufficiently helpful for them.
As COVID-19 starts as a respiratory infection, it is obviously worth checking the lungs for signs of long-term harm. In one study analyzing scans of the lungs of almost a thousand patients, it was found that the lung’s lower lobes were those most frequently damaged by COVID-19.
These scans showed opaque patches indicating inflammation, suggesting that many former COVID patients could struggle to breathe during sustained exercise. On a more reassuring note, however, the analysis also revealed that visible damage to these lungs usually healed after a couple of weeks.
Becoming infected with COVID-19 can inflict harm to the immune system. Sadly, this effect would not bode well for the patient’s longer-term recovery, as the immune system permeates the entire body. Therefore, COVID could leave many sufferers with a weakened immune system.
Still, while it is believed that many other viruses have this effect, more research is needed before it can be said conclusively that COVID-19 does likewise.
It is thought that COVID-19 can make parts of the immune system over-reactive – and this, in turn, can cause inflammation, to which the heart is especially susceptible.
Mao Chen, a cardiologist at Sichuan University in the Chinese city of Chengdu, has expressed concern about “the long-term impact” – as, in some patients, the risk to the cardiovascular system “lingers for a long time”.
If you are showing COVID-19 symptoms, don’t hesitate to book a COVID-19 test – such as through a company like MyHealthChecked – to determine whether you are indeed infected.