Researchers still learning long-term effects of COVID-19

What is known is that it can devastate your lungs and badly damage your brain and heart

Researchers still learning long-term effects of COVID-19
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists and medical professionals still are learning about both the short- and long-term impacts COVID-19 has on a person’s health. What they do know for certain is that COVID-19 can devastate your lungs and can badly damage your brain and heart. (Source: KSLA News 12 file photo)

(KSLA) — A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists and medical professionals still are learning about both the short- and long-term impacts COVID-19 has on a person’s health.

What they do know for certain is that COVID-19 can devastate your lungs and can badly damage your brain and heart.

“As the pandemic unfolds, we are learning that many organs besides the lungs are affected by COVID-19 and there are many ways the infection can affect someone’s health,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website.

One ArkLaTex doctor said of the patients who arrive for care at his hospital, about 1 in 4 eventually will suffer some type of long-term damage.

“What we are seeing, especially in older adults who have to be hospitalized, is that inflammation of the lungs can cause residual scarring of the lungs,” said Dr. John Vanchiere, an infectious disease specialist at LSU Health Shreveport. “The same thing can happen in the heart.”

Multiyear studies are underway to further investigate the most common symptoms, who is most likely to get them and whether those symptoms eventually resolve.

Researchers still learning long-term effects of COVID-19

Here are some of the lessons learned thus far:

  • Most COVID-19 patients recover and return to normal health.
  • Some patients can have symptoms for months after they recover.
  • People who have had only a mild case of the coronavirus and those who are not hospitalized with the illness also can experience persistent or late symptoms.

The CDC says the long-term symptoms most commonly reported include:

  • Chest and joint pain
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

Other long-term symptoms that have been reported include:

  • Brain fog, meaning difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations, meaning your heart pounds or beats fast
  • Intermittent fever
  • Muscle pain

There also are more serious but less common long-term complications that affect different bodily systems, the CDC says.

Cardiovascular: inflammation of the heart muscle

Dermatologic: rash, hair loss

Neurological: memory problems, sleep issues and changes to your senses of smell and taste

Psychiatric: anxiety, depression, mood changes

Renal: acute injury to the kidneys

Respiratory: abnormal lung function

“The long-term significance of these effects is not yet known,” the CDC advises.

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