The virus can affect numerous other organs and systems outside of the lungs and airways. Patients who often experience long-term effects of the virus weeks and months after initial infection have reported a variety of variable symptoms affecting the brain, cardiovascular system, heart, kidneys, intestines, liver, and even skin.
The NIHR Living with COVID-19 study found that in many cases, patients experienced symptoms in one physiological system, that they subsided and only appeared in another system. All of these symptoms present a medical challenge for health professionals, the report said.
Based on published studies and interviews with long-term COVID patients, one of the key early conclusions in the review is that long-term COVID-19 illness can be due to several syndromes, including:
A recent study found that more than half of the recovered patients examined had reported debilitating fatigue – post-viral fatigue syndrome – months after recovery. At least one study found that among 100 adults who recovered from the coronavirus, 60 percent had persistent inflammation in the heart.
The NIHR review aims to gather ongoing evidence for long-distance drivers, counting at least tens of thousands, if not significantly more, to provide a clearer framework for diagnosing patients. This would help healthcare providers, researchers, and policy makers understand patients suffering from the disease, provide better access and COVID care, and inform long-term planning of what additional services are needed for patients.
“The changing and varied symptoms of COVID-19 are not being well served by the current organization of health care,” wrote author Dr. Elaine Maxwell in the review. “COVID-19 is a multi-system disease, and people’s experience reflects the challenges that people with multiple comorbidities with limited service integration have already experienced.”
The focus group results in the review found that patients who were ventilated and in intensive care had ongoing needs that were similar to those who did not receive hospital care.
In some cases, the effects of COVID-19 can trigger other health events, such as: B. a stroke or loss of muscle tone that is not related to the virus itself but still requires special treatment.
A ‘CRAFTY’ DISEASE
However, paying attention to acute respiratory symptoms and the perception that recovery after two weeks is the norm often means that patients who have not been hospitalized or officially diagnosed are overlooked or discharged altogether by skeptical health professionals despite potentially debilitating symptoms can be found report.
“It’s a cunning disease and it’s a dubious disease because you doubt yourself and people doubt you,” one focus group patient said on the review.
Some health professionals have suggested to patients that their symptoms were due to anxiety when the patient’s belief actually caused the fear.
“A number of people have said there have been cases where they thought they couldn’t survive the night and there was anger over being classified as ‘mild cases’ simply because they didn’t have access to respiratory support in hospitals”, wrote Maxwell.
In Canada, an online group called COVID Long Haulers Support Group Canada has more than 2,800 members and is growing. The group has asked federal and provincial governments to pledge more help to those who develop COVID neurological symptoms with disabilities.
ROLLER COASTERS UND RELAPSES
The review also documented the unpredictability of the virus by its focus group. In some patients, the first symptoms were not a cough, fever, or shortness of breath. Others did not experience more severe symptoms until weeks after their illness.
“I had symptoms for the first time on March 5th, but it wasn’t until mid-May that my heart symptoms started and they were the scariest of all,” said one patient.
“It’s more of a roller coaster than an incline, I go up and down and up and down. When I do too much, I feel worse, and when I don’t do enough, I feel worse. When I feel better, I have to muster the energy, ”reported another patient.
Still, Maxwell notes that many questions remain unanswered from a medical, medical, and socio-economic perspective. Going forward, the NIHR plans to keep the review updated and include marginalized voices like the homeless and prison inmates for a more complete picture of the disease’s impact.
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