It’s been months since the first coronavirus cases hit the United States and doctors are finding that some symptoms last a long time—even after the patient tests negative for the virus. Here are 10 that they have seen—and the damage they cause. If you fear you have COVID-19, call your doctor immediately.
“Something that we are seeing from a radiologic perspective are patients with permanent lung damage regardless of age group,” says Dr. José Morey, a practicing radiologist in Virginia. “Lung scarring often associated with chronic chemical damage such as smoking is occurring which leads to reduced overall lung function and fatigue.”
According to Dr. Lili Barsky, “chronic lung irritation or damage can lead to asthma or even pulmonary fibrosis.”
“The patients who are ventilated have had as high as up to 30% incidence of chronic kidney failure post-recovery—meaning that they will need to be on dialysis machines afterward,” says Dr. Sunny Jha, an anesthesiologist at the University of Southern California. “It’s unclear how much kidney function they will be able to recover afterward so they don’t rely on dialysis.”
“Most patients lose weight but in the most severe cases for critically ill patients who are ventilators for weeks, their muscle mass is markedly reduced and they need to relearn to do basic functions such as swallowing and walking,” says Dr. Jha.
“If there was kidney and blood vessel damage to the arteries in general, this leads to chronic kidney failure and a cascade of chemical reactions that cause high blood pressure and its negative effects,” says Dr. Christine Traxler. “High blood pressure, when not controlled, can lead to atherosclerosis and complications like strokes and heart attacks later in life.”
“Persistent fatigue”—a whole-body tiredness—”can result from the stress of illness, from the viral inflammation, or the breathing impairment from lung damage,” says Leann Poston M.D.
Venous Insufficiency in the Legs
“If your COVID-19 infection led to a blood clot in the leg, which isn’t uncommon, this will do permanent damage to the leg veins,” says Dr. Traxler. “The blood clot in the leg itself will go away with treatment but the veins themselves become so damaged that there will be a long-lasting risk of blood backing up in the leg veins.”
“When a person has a COVID-19 infection, especially if severe, this can be a traumatic experience for the affected person,” says Dr. Traxler. “Not everyone handles such a life-threatening experience well and will have persistent nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and depression as a result of the trauma affecting thinking and the body’s general response to severe traumatic stress.”
“Day 47 with a fever. Second Covid test – negative. Blood work – normal,” patient Kate Meredith told NBC News. “My body officially isn’t fighting this virus anymore, yet my fever and sinus tachycardia tell a different story.”
“Andrew Dumont, 32, of Seattle, has also tested negative for the virus after a previous positive COVID-19 test,” NBC News reported. “Two months since first falling ill, Dumont still suffers from numbness in his limbs and shortness of breath—prompting two visits to the emergency room twice in the past week. CT scans and lung x-rays showed no additional infections.”
Need for Oxygen
“In the sick people I saw in a NYC hospital, there were many who had overcome the viral replication of the disease—they had been intubated in the ICU and were now off the ventilator and out of the ICU,” says Dr. Larry Burchett, MD and Emergency Physician. “Yet, they still needed 4L of Oxygen for example in order to keep their oxygen levels up. The virus was gone, but the lungs were still recovering from the damage done.”
So What Can You Do to Help Yourself—And Others?
Every day that passes, doctors are working tirelessly to discover new ways to treat COVID-19—and how to counteract any long-lasting damage—learning about it in real time. If you feel despondent because you think your symptoms will last forever, speak to your doctor about their new findings; chances are they’ve met someone with your exact same issues. And spread the word about what you’re feeling—to professionals and friends and family. The more we all know about coronavirus, the faster we can be rid of this disease.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.