Post-Covid

Long COVID Questions by Medical Providers

By Dr. Abdul Ahad Hayee

May 12th, 2021

Last updated: May 12th, 2021

WellHealth Primary care is receiving a number of requests as patients recovering from COVID-19 still battle some of the lingering symptoms. WellHealth is partnering with patients to educate them on the symptoms of so-called Long-COVID and guide them on their path to a full recovery.

What is Long-COVID?

Long-COVID is a range of symptoms that can last weeks or months after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 or can appear weeks after infection, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control. Even if you were diagnosed with mild or moderate COVID, developing long COVID can result in long-term health effects. COVID symptom studies show that even after your infection is clear, you can continue suffering from the symptoms.

Approximately 33 percent of all individuals diagnosed with COVID did not require hospitalization in a recent University of Washington study. But the research shows these individuals continued to experience symptoms including loss of taste or smell, fatigue and brain fog. If you have contracted COVID, there is a good chance the symptoms will continue to linger. This is referred to as long COVID. Another COVID symptom study involved 177 relatively young and healthy patients in the Seattle area revealed they suffered long-COVID symptoms. They had long-COVID symptoms even though very few of them developed serious higher risk infections (Thompson, 2021). Only 13 percent were diagnosed with high blood pressure and only five percent had diabetes.

The symptoms can last for months or even years. This means tens of millions of people are at risk for a decreased quality of life. According to studies, long-term symptoms are slightly more common among older adults. Persistent symptoms have been reported by approximately 27 percent of all patients between the ages of 18 and 39. Patients age 40 to 64 have reported persistent symptoms, with 43 percent coming from patients above the age of 65.

Can I get Long COVID if I tested negative?

Yes, you can still experience Long-COVID symptoms even if you’ve tested negative for COVID-19. A study at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, which focused on the time between exposure and testing, found a median false-negative rate of 20% three days after symptoms start. A small study in China conducted early in the pandemic found a high rate of negative tests even among patients sick enough to be hospitalized.

What Are Long COVID Symptoms?

Long COVID symptoms can continue for weeks or months after your initial infection. If you have even a mild case of COVID or do not experience any symptoms, developing long COVID is possible. According to the CDC, the most common symptoms include:

• Chest pain difficulty • Headache • Dizziness when standing • Cough • Fatigue or tiredness • Shortness of breath • Loss of taste or smell • Fever • Pain difficulty breathing • Muscle or joint pain • Heart palpitations or a pounding heart • Anxiety or depression • Brain fog or difficulty concentrating or thinking • Increased symptoms after mental or physical activities

Individuals suffering from long-haul COVID have recovered from the impact of the infection and tested negative. No consistent reason has been established for persistent COVID symptoms at this time. According to recent research, roughly 10 percent of recovered individuals become long haulers. This percentage is consistent among several studies conducted worldwide.

Long-term health effects can impact anyone including patients with other conditions, healthy individuals, the young and the old. Symptoms have been reported for patients hospitalized for COVID with extremely mild symptoms.

What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome?

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome is a very serious condition that can result if you had COVID. Different areas of your body can become inflamed including gastrointestinal organs, skin, heart, brain, lungs, eyes and kidneys. Although this syndrome is more common among children, adults are at risk as well.

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder for COVID patients?

Researchers have found that more than 32 percent of COVID patients in the post-illness stages also may suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder.

Their study in the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry examined 318 patients who entered the emergency department and recovered from COVID-19. The patients were offered a comprehensive and interdisciplinary medical and psychiatric assessment to determine their PTSD.

COVID is a global health emergency. The result is both psychological and physical health concerns due to the exposure to the threat of death and unexpected deaths. Healthcare workers also can suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder due to close contact with patients suffering from COVID, supply shortages, deaths and an increase in illnesses.

What is Postintensive Care Syndrome?

PICS or postintensive care syndrome is worsening mental, cognitive or physical impairments after a patient is placed in intensive care or experiences a critical illness. The belief is the result of the pandemic will result in more people with PICS including the economic and health challenges linked to this condition.

Medical professionals need to use assessment and screening tools before, during and after the patient is discharged. This will help improve the outlook for both the individuals and their families. When there is a serious acute respiratory syndrome such as COVID and SAQRS, it has become obvious the impact extends beyond hospitalization and into the future.

Can COVID Cause Organ Problems?

You may believe COVID can only affect your lungs. Unfortunately, your other organs also can be damaged. Organ damage can potentially increase your risk of health issues for the long term. All of the following organs can be impacted by COVID:

Heart

Lasting damage has been found in the heart muscle by imaging tests. These tests were run months after patients recovered from COVID. Even if your symptoms were mild, this type of damage is possible. Your risk of heart complications or failure can increase in the long term.

Brain

Regardless of your age, COVID can lead to seizures, strokes and Guillain-Barre syndrome. This condition results in temporary paralysis. Your risk of developing either Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease can also increase. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome has been experienced by both children and adults after recovering from COVID. This condition can cause severe inflammation of certain tissues and organs.

Lungs

A specific type of pneumonia has been linked to COVID and can result in long-term damage to the alveoli or tiny sacs of air in the lungs. Scar tissue can cause breathing issues in the future.

Can COVID Cause Blood Clots?

COVID increases the risk of blood cells clumping and forming clots. Strokes and heart attacks can result from large clots. The majority of heart damage seen with COVID is believed to be the result of extremely small clots blocking the capillaries or blood vessels within the heart muscle. Other areas of your body can also be impacted by COVID including your legs, kidneys, lungs and liver. Your blood vessels can be weakened resulting in a leak. This is a contributing factor to long-lasting issues with the kidneys and liver.

Does Smoking Increase the Potential for Serious Health Complications?

According to recent data, smoking cigarettes will increase your risk of developing long COVID. The result can be hospitalization and intensive care. Smoking can result in cell damage and inflammation throughout your body and lead to a weakened immune system. This makes it harder for your body to fight disease. Whether or not you have been diagnosed with COVID, you should strongly consider quitting smoking permanently. Resources are available to help you succeed.


By Dr. Abdul Ahad Hayee