Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have reiterated that the coronavirus is not a big deal, and catching it is bearable. They claim it is just flu-like symptoms that are amped up a bit. Researchers are finding now that the assumption that the virus is just a flu on steroids is false.
Many patients are finding that some of the symptoms or side effects of the virus are difficult to shake. Some even have lingering effects months later. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spoke about the effects at the International AIDS Society COVID-19 press release on July 10.
"If you look anecdotally there is no question that there are a considerable number of individuals who have a post-viral syndrome that really in many respects can incapacitate them for weeks and weeks following so-called recovery and clearing of the virus," Fauci said "You can see people who've recovered who really do not get back to normal that they have things that are highly suggestive of myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome. Brain fog, fatigue, and difficulty in concentrating so this is something we really need to seriously look at because it very well might be a post-viral syndrome associated with COVID-19."
Doctors and researchers alike have been elbow-deep in the coronavirus to figure out how to beat it. During that research, they have found ten other signs that suggest a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and the nasty little side effects that are hard to shake.
Multiple Organ Systems Complications
Doctors suggest that the fatigue, fever and other symptoms of COVID-19 that patients experience for approximately 10 days might only be a portion of battling the virus. Soo Kim, MD, Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine laid out some of the issues a patient might deal with.
"Some will recover quickly with few long-term complications, while others will follow a slower trajectory, requiring ongoing support,” Kim said.
Many patients who beat the virus may experience a throng of other complications, like organ failure.
"Based on the emerging literature and early clinical observations, it is shown to affect respiratory, renal, neurological and cardiovascular systems," Kim said.
Shortness of breath
Even though shortness of breath is a major symptom of the virus that might send the patient to get tested in the first place, Kim said it could also be an ongoing problem for them – possibly even months.
"Shortness of breath can be due to pulmonary deconditioning, fibrosis or pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lung)," Kim noted.
Nikki Patterson, an unfortunate patient of COVID-19 said the shortness of breath is nothing to laugh at. She said she has been dealing with shortness of breath for a while, and certain things seem to make it worse.
“It’s even worse when I’m wearing my mask or in the heat,” Patterson said. “I still have to use the inhaler they prescribed me when it gets too bad.”
She said the toughest part is living in the Texas heat, but she is certain she will get better as time passes.
Hypercoagulation is a condition that causes a person’s blood to clot more than usual. According to Kim, this condition can stem from COVID-19.
"Many patients suffer from arterial thrombosis (blood clot in the arteries), which, in turn, causes heart dysfunctions," Kim said. "We also see many patients getting new-onset arrhythmia."
Newsweek released an article on July 13 that pointed to the findings of a recent study on heart scans of COVID-19 patients. The study consisted of over 1,200 patients – 813 were diagnosed positive with the virus and 298 were probable positives, and the remaining 105 were “assumed” to have the virus.
All the participants had an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound scan of the heart. It was found that 55% of the participants had abnormalities in their scans; meaning COVID-19 did damage to their heart.
Acute Kidney Dysfunction
Recovered COVID-19 patients who have never experienced kidney problems are still probable to suffer from acute kidney injury as a result from COVID-19. According to Kim, some might even need dialysis. Currently, it is unclear how the virus ushers damage to a patient’s kidney.
Johns Hopkins Medicine recently published an article warning of the damage COVID-19 can do to a patient’s kidney. C. John Sperati, M.D., M.H.S., an expert in kidney health, said patients with underlying health issues need to be aware.
“Many patients with severe COVID-19 are those with co-existing, chronic conditions, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Both of these increase the risk of kidney disease,” Sperati said.
However, Sperati and other doctors are also learning kidney damage is starting to affect people who did not have kidney problems before they got infected with the virus.
Kim has also found some of the lingering side effects from the virus to be a prolonged cough that hangs around for weeks, difficulty speaking or swallowing, muscle weakness, nerve damage, mental health complications, and cognitive impairment – brain fog, memory loss.