As the virus is still new, there is limited research on the long-term consequences of COVID-19.
COVID-19 patients with underlying comorbidities are at increased risk.
Lung Fibrosis and Arrhythmia are common complications.
Mental health problems are commonly seen in ICU patients.
Many research studies have been done and are being done on the symptoms and various treatment strategies of COVID-19. There is limited evidence regarding the long-term effects of COVID-19 on an individual's health. It is too early to say as the SARS-CoV-2 is still a new virus. Nevertheless, the virus is capable of producing long-term effects on the health of an individual. Not everyone with COVID-19 develops long-term effects. Patients older than 65 years, with underlying comorbidities and compromised immune status are at increased risk of developing long-term consequences of COVID-19. While the majority of COVID-19 patients recover within a few weeks, some may experience a variety of symptoms like exhaustion, headache, anxiety, and muscle pains for longer periods even after the infection subsides.
Long-term Effects of COVID-19
While more research studies are required on this subject, the following are some of the long-term effects that can be seen in patients who recovered from COVID-19.
COVID-19 patients who developed pneumonia or ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) are at increased risk of severe lung dysfunction. Lung fibrosis is common in such patients. Persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain with breathing are the symptoms of lung fibrosis. If you develop any of these symptoms, discuss with a pulmonologist for pulmonary rehabilitation.
SARS-CoV-2 virus directly attacks the muscle cells (myocardium) and lining (pericardium) of the heart. It leads to myocarditis and pericarditis, respectively. Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) is a common long-term effect seen in COVID-19 recovered patients. COVID-19 may cause significant damage to the heart leading to heart failure.
Studies show that COVID-19 affects the nervous system due to the direct involvement of the virus with neurons or the exaggerated cytokine storm. Patients may suffer from various neurological and psychological symptoms like headaches, seizures, trouble concentrating, decreased mental sharpness, decreased ability to solve problems, cognitive impairment, and hallucinations. ICU patients are at increased risk of mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic disorder.
Post intensive care syndrome
Post intensive care syndrome is a term used to describe various signs and symptoms observed in ICU-admitted COVID-19 patients. The patient presents with muscle weakness, significant cognitive impairment, and limited physical ability. However, it is not clear if these symptoms are due to COVID-19 or secondary to sedation and prolonged immobilization during hospitalization.
Blood clots are common both during and after COVID-19. The body's increased inflammatory response in COVID-19 is responsible for the increased risk of blood clot formation. Blood clots increase the risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, and pulmonary embolism. Lifestyle modifications and blood thinners are advised to prevent these dangerous complications.
A few studies showed that COVID-19 worsens kidney function. One such study showed that 30% of patients developed moderate to severe acute kidney injury requiring dialysis. Patients are at increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
It is too soon to comment on the long-term consequences of COVID-19. More research studies are required on this subject. If you recovered from COVID-19 and are still experiencing the previous COVID-19 symptoms or developed new symptoms, discuss with your doctor to get it thoroughly evaluated. The best bet is for everyone to adhere to the existing safety guidelines. For instance, wash your hands regularly, wear a mask whenever you are in public, do not shake hands with people, etc.