Although it may seem that the worst of COVID-19 has finally come to an end, that may not actually be the case. Research has found that even though you may recover from coronavirus, there are still some lingering long-term effects in at least 10 percent of survivors. They are calling this condition “long COVID,” and people who experience it are often called “long-haulers.” Long COVID implies that even after you recover from the virus, you may still experience side effects.
This effect of patients suffering long-term repercussions is not unique to COVID-19. It also occurs with other conditions like strep throat. Although some lingering effects can remain after any infection, COVID-19 has shed a light on long-haulers. It has become more evident that those who have suffered from COVID-19 have more visible and apparent symptoms. There are several theories as to why and how this is happening.
Parts of the virus remain in your body
The virus may have seemingly cleared your system, but components of the virus may still stay in your body. This means that even if you begin to test negative you will still have COVID in your body. Microbiologist Amy Proal explains, “It’s out of the blood but gets into tissue at a low level — the gut, even maybe the brain in some people who are really sick — and you have a reservoir of the virus that remains, and that drives a lot of inflammation and symptoms.”
This has happened with other viral infections before. During the Ebola epidemic, it was found that the virus lingered in semen and the eye. With the Zika virus, it was found that it could be sexually transmitted. So far, studies have found that COVID RNAs and proteins have been found in different parts of the body, including the brain and gastrointestinal tract.
Other pathogens react to the virus
Another theory for long COVID is that pathogens that had been lingering in the body prior to the COVID infection can be awakened and worsen symptoms. You may have proteins from other viruses in your body that are dormant and have never caused a problem. COVID then comes along and wakes up these viruses, allowing them to take over your body.
Your immune system may be so focused on fighting COVID that it does not have the energy or strength to fight off other infections. This can lead you to have a variety of symptoms unrelated to COVID and your COVID symptoms to worsen. You may be unable to treat both simultaneously which can lead to lingering or long-term issues.
You lose the good bacteria in your microbiome
A study published in Gut found that despite COVID-19 being “primarily a respiratory illness, there is mounting evidence suggesting that the GI tract is involved.” Researchers looked at samples from 100 patients with confirmed COVID-19, and characterized their gut microbiome compositions of each. Per their findings:
Gut microbiome composition was significantly altered in patients with COVID-19 compared with non-COVID-19 individuals irrespective of whether patients had received medication (p<0.01)…. Associations between gut microbiota composition, levels of cytokines and inflammatory markers in patients with COVID-19 suggest that the gut microbiome is involved in the magnitude of COVID-19 severity possibly via modulating host immune responses. Furthermore, the gut microbiota dysbiosis after disease resolution could contribute to persistent symptoms, highlighting a need to understand how gut microorganisms are involved in inflammation and COVID-19.
In layman’s terms, COVID-19 wreaks havoc on your microbiome, which could contribute to long-term symptoms.
Your immune system misfires
When COVID first began making its debut people with autoimmune disorders were part of the most vulnerable population. It has now also been found that long COVID patients can and have developed autoimmune disorders. COVID attacks the immune system and causes it to misfire. That means that your body is turning on itself. The body then begins to attack other elements like your brain and heart. COVID-19 is a very advanced virus that is unlike other infections, which is one of the reasons why it has been difficult to combat.
You sustained an injury
When you hear the word injury, your first thought might be of outward injures, like cuts or bruises. However, there are injuries that can happen inside the body which can be even worse than any cut or broken bone. COVID has been linked to internal injuries even after it has cleared your body. Some of these injuries are damage to the heart and scarring of the lungs.
These are not injuries that can be easily healed. Researchers have found that in patients they followed, 70 percent had some form of impairment in their organs four months after they initially contracted COVID. When it came to the lungs, other researchers found that one-third of patients had scars on their lungs after more than a month after experiencing COVID symptoms. The numbers have not been released but it has also been found that brain damage and cardiac injury are possible.
So, is there anything that can be done for COVID long-haulers? Researchers are rushing to find a solution but studies are still being conducted. Thus far, they have found that some patients found their symptoms improving after receiving the vaccine. Others have reported no change and others have even said their symptoms worsened.
Larson Law Firm, PC provides comprehensive counsel to injury victims in Minot, Bismarck, and throughout North Dakota. Contact us today at 701-484-HURT, or complete the contact form to schedule a consultation.
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