You likely think of COVID-19 as a “respiratory disease,” but the coronavirus has been shown to infect the heart, as well as the lungs, and new research reveals just how much damage it can do. New research published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine confirmed that patients with COVID-19 could experience:
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
- Acute myocardial infarction (a heart attack)
- Heart failure
- Dysrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
- Myocardial injury (a damaged heart)
- And venous thromboembolic events (blood clots).
Here are the warning signs that you’re experiencing each of those, according to the Mayo Clinic, starting with a blood clot.
Swelling of the Leg
One sign of a blood clot is swelling in the leg—but usually not both legs.
Pain in Your Leg
With a blood clot, “the pain often starts in your calf and can feel like cramping or soreness,” says the Mayo Clinic.
Red or Discolored Skin on the Leg
“If a clot plugs up veins in your arms or legs, they may look bluish or reddish,” explains WebMD. “Your skin also might stay discolored from the damage to blood vessels afterward.”
A Feeling of Warmth in the Affected Leg
With a blood clot: “You may have a persistent, throbbing cramp-like feeling in the leg. You may also experience pain or tenderness when standing or walking. As the blood clot worsens, the skin around it often becomes red or discolored and feels warm to the touch,” explains UPMC. Note: Deep vein thrombosis can also exhibit no symptoms.
Pressure in Chest or Arms That Spreads
Signs of a heart attack, according to the Mayo Clinic, are the classic: “Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back.”
Indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain are symptoms of COVID-19, but also of a heart attack.
Shortness of Breath
Since COVID-19 can infect your lungs, the shortness of breath can be confusing—is it COVID-19 or a heart attack or both? Call your medical professional if you can’t breathe, no matter what.
When your heart is having trouble working, it takes more effort for it to pump blood. You’ll also feel anxious. Hence the increased sweat.
A deep-bone tiredness—not just a usual sleepiness—can be a sign your heart is failing.
Lightheadedness or Sudden Dizziness
If you experience any of these symptoms, call your medical professional immediately.
A Fluttering in Your Chest
This can be a sign of an irregular heartbeat—as can a racing heartbeat or a slow heartbeat, along with chest pain or shortness of breath. Not to mention, “Some of the medications utilized to treat COVID-19″—like hydroxychloroquine—”also have potential cardiac complications” related to your heartbeat, says the new research.
Who Is Most At Risk?
Researchers have found “severe or critical cases” of heart issues “account for less than 20% of patients with COVID-19.” Their findings confirm what other researchers have found. A new study from Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, for example, found COVID-19 patients had myocardial injuries, and the patients had these commonalities:
- older age
- inflammatory response
- and underlying cardiovascular-related comorbidities.
“First, people with preexisting heart disease are at a greater risk for severe cardiovascular and respiratory complications from COVID-19,” reported the Harvard Gazette. “Similarly, research has shown that infection with the influenza virus poses a more severe threat for people with heart disease than those without cardiac problems. Research also shows that heart attacks can actually be brought on by respiratory infections such as the flu.”
“Second,” the Gazette continues, “people with previously undiagnosed heart disease may be presenting with previously silent cardiac symptoms unmasked by the viral infection.”
Paul Ridker, the Eugene Braunwald Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told the Gazette: “It’s like one big stress test for the heart.”
As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.
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