18 Mar Covid Long Haulers: When the Symptoms Don’t “Just Go Away”
One of the consequences of Covid is that all too often, it doesn’t “just go away”. This is not the flu. We hear about people getting Covid, then they’re back at work as if nothing happened. Those are the lucky ones. A good example is the White House staff last fall. The majority likely felt fine in a week or so and resumed their normal activities. But dozens of staffers became infected because they were not following Covid protocols.
The director of the White House security office didn’t just recover from Covid. He had amputations of his right foot, lower right leg, and big toe on his left foot and spent three months in intensive care. Covid irrevocably changed his life.
Meet the long haulers, Covid survivors battling symptoms weeks/months after infection.
The long haulers manifest a wide range of ongoing symptoms. They may have trouble concentrating or have breathing difficulties. They suffer from dizziness, insomnia, confusion, a racing heart or a host of other lasting effects that keeps them from getting back to their normal lives.
A study of 1,733 hospitalized coronavirus patients published in The Lancet, examines these long-lasting conditions:
- 3 out of 4 Covid-19 patients still suffered from at least one symptom.
- Fatigue and muscle weakness, 63%.
- Sleep difficulties, 26%.
- Anxiety and depression, 23%.
- Diminished lung function, 25%.
Age plays a role
The Lancet study found that reports of fatigue or muscle weakness rose 17% for each ten-year increase in age. “Because Covid-19 is such a new disease, we are only beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients’ health,” said study author Bin Cao, M.D., director of respiratory and critical care medicine at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing. “Our analysis indicates that most patients continue to live with at least some of the effects of the virus after leaving hospital.”
Even patients with mild cases are reporting long-term symptoms
Doctors found that those with mild cases of the disease or those never hospitalized were also reporting long-term symptoms, said Christian Sandrock, M.D., an infectious disease and pulmonary critical care specialist at the University of California, Davis. “They got Covid, felt crummy at home but were never hospitalized,” he said. “Yet they never fully got better, or new symptoms developed. Those are my patients.”
Eleven months later: Fatigue and heart palpitations
Such is the case of one of Dr. Sandrock’s patients, 63-year-old Marina Oshana. Oshana picked up what she thought was a nasty bug in February 2020 that turned out to be Covid-19. She was exhausted for a few weeks, running a low-grade fever and a bad cough, but symptoms never got so bad that she thought she needed to go to the hospital. Eleven months later, she is still battling fatigue, heart palpitations and a blood oxygen level that sometimes drops to dangerous levels. “Now I have to really dial it back. It’s frustrating not to be able to do what I did before.”
Causes of ongoing symptoms: Covid’s ability to invade blood vessel cells
Many doctors believe these prolonged symptoms are related to the coronavirus’s ability to invade blood vessel cells and cause irregularity in flow and clotting, blocking tiny blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the brain, heart and lungs.
Fatigue is the most common complaint of long haulers
Researchers are also looking into whether Covid is triggering chronic fatigue syndrome. Some patients are too exhausted to go back to work. They may struggle to get out of bed. Others report feeling winded when they do only a fraction of their previous activity. MRIs showed heart inflammation in 60% of patients who had recovered from severe Covid-19.
Sleep disturbances common even for those with mild Covid-19 illness
Others wake up multiple times during the night. It’s unclear how much of the insomnia is related to the general anxiety and social isolation caused by the pandemic and how much is physiological.
Anxiety/depression, cognitive impairment/memory loss
Not surprising, participants with more severe illness were more likely to report anxiety or depression. Many of the patients exhibited memory loss and inability to concentrate. There are other miscellaneous symptoms, including taste and smell disorder, dizziness and joint pain. Scientists continue to learn about this disease, and it’s complicated by the new strains and/or mutations. We may be dealing with this disease and its effects for a long time.
This is the time for taking charge and making commitments
We’re all looking forward to the day when we can rip our masks off, yet the data caution us to remain vigilant. From March 2021, there have been 29K+ new cases, and 538K deaths. Covid remains a threat that we need to take seriously.
Many of our clients are scheduling appointments to create Living Trusts
A Trust, with a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive are providing peace of mind to many. Best of all, we guide you through it and we prepare the legal documents. Schedule an appointment with Guideway today.
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