(AscendHealthy.com) – This pandemic has us all exhausted, but for some COVID-19 survivors, running on empty has become a normal part of daily life. Experts are still trying to figure out why at least 10% of people who recover from the virus report suffering from continued symptoms, but the evidence for this condition is mounting. Long-term COVID-19 could become a second epidemic if we don’t find a way to stop the spread. Here’s what we know so far about the issue.
These 7 Symptoms Could Linger in up to 10% of COVID-19 Survivors.
1. Lingering Fatigue
Of all the lasting effects patients have reported, fatigue appears to be the most common. Over half of long-term sufferers continue to struggle with fatigue for at least 2 months after they’ve beaten the virus. Most people do eventually regain their energy, but the process can be excruciating and lengthy. Experts recommend a gradual introduction back into exercise, slowly increasing length and intensity until normal endurance returns.
2. Shortness of Breath
Some people who recover from COVID-19 may find themselves feeling short of breath, sometimes even in the absence of physical exertion, for months. Diaphragmatic and pursed-lip breathing may help improve lung strength, while regular use of a pulse oximeter can help monitor how effectively the lungs are moving oxygen into the blood. Patients who’ve suffered from severe respiratory illness may also benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation.
3. Joint Pain
Persistent joint pain isn’t as common as fatigue and shortness of breath, but it’s still an issue for some patients. Penn Medicine recommends NSAIDs and RICE — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — to manage COVID-19 pain and inflammation. Maintaining a healthy weight and staying as physically active as possible may also help.
4. Chest Pain
Persistent chest pain and burning lungs also plague many COVID-19 survivors. Some patients may need cardiology referrals to rule out continued heart involvement, while others might find themselves battling blood clots. Chest pain might also be connected to lingering lung involvement and related inflammation, but only a doctor can make that determination.
5. Neurological Issues
COVID-19 has gained a nasty reputation for its effects on the nervous system and brain. An increasing number of people are complaining that they’ve lost their sense of smell and/or taste as a result of the virus. According to Harvard Health, between 20% and 40% of those people won’t regain their lost sense for over a year. A small minority of people may never recover.
Another rare subset of patients develops seizures, stroke, encephalitis, and cranial neuropathy. Headaches, dizziness, and brain fog might also plague some people. People with lasting neurological issues may need to see neurologists for monitoring and solutions.
6. Autoimmune Disease
COVID-19 infections can cause autoimmune issues in some people. This problem occurs due to a process called molecular mimicry, or confusion in the immune system over similarities between proteins on the virus and those found in the body. The confused immune cells begin targeting the host along with the viral invaders, leading to disease.
One of the more common autoimmune issues COVID-19 survivors are facing is sicca syndrome. Similar to the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome, sicca causes inflammation in the tear-producing and salivary glands, which leads to dryness in the eyes and mouth. Unlike Sjogren’s, COVID-related sicca is likely to resolve over time.
7. Hair Loss
Severe illness, especially when a high fever is involved, can put a lot of stress on the body. In some cases, the body responds with excessive hair shedding. The American Academy of Dermatology explains that this issue can last up to 6-9 months before patients begin to see the condition of their hair turn around. Hair loss by the handful can be scary and unsettling, but like most other post-COVID symptoms, this one eventually reverses on its own.
COVID-19 could have a lot more planned than a week or two of misery for some people. Long-term symptoms are creating a whole new level of torment for far too many survivors, and at the moment, the only way to ensure someone doesn’t fall into this pit is to avoid infection altogether. Wash hands regularly, practice social distancing, and wear a mask while out in public to minimize the threat.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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