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HomeHealthWhat is ‘Long Covid’ and why some patients who have recovered continue...

What is ‘Long Covid’ and why some patients who have recovered continue to feel ill for months

Long Covid or post-Covid syndrome can show debilitating symptoms, including chronic fatigue, loss of mental ability and many other physical conditions.

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Bengaluru: Over 12 million people across the world have officially “recovered” from Covid-19, but a large percentage continue to feel the effects of the disease to this day, with no end in sight.

One of the more unusual but increasingly common aspects of the coronavirus pandemic is people suffering from the symptoms for many weeks or even months. There have been growing reports of people experiencing what is coming to be known as ‘long Covid’ despite testing negative for the virus, including among celebrities and athletes. It is also being called post-Covid syndrome.

Long-haul patients experience a range of symptoms, including headaches, fevers, confusion, loss of smell or taste, loss of sense in extremities, short-term memory loss, and prolonged breathing difficulty.

Concerns over ‘long Covid’, coupled with those over permanent damage to the body, has led authorities to reportedly launch a recovery monitoring exercise among discharged patients.

Also read: What doctors know so far about the lingering symptoms of Covid-19

Chronic fatigue syndrome

One of the most common symptoms seem to be those of myalgic encephalomyelitis chronic fatigue syndrome or ME/CFS. As the name suggests, ME/CFS causes chronic levels of fatigue, which can be debilitating on a daily basis. CFS symptoms include perennial and extreme tiredness, muscle or joint weakness, fevers or chills, digestive issues, frequent sore throats, sudden sensitivity to noise or light, dizziness, headaches or migraines, brain fog, inability to concentrate or focus, inability to retain memories, and sometimes swollen lymph nodes.

‘Long Covid’ occurs in people of all ages, including those who were previously healthy. A patient-led research among more than 600 long-haulers found that Covid had become a systemic disease instead of just a respiratory one, evoking symptoms relating to the digestive, neurological, and cardiovascular systems, as well as to other parts of the body.

Neurological issues were widely prevalent and underreported, found the report, with brain fog and concentration issues reported by 70 per cent of people, making it as common as cough. Sixty-one per cent experience dizziness, 32 per cent experience numbness in the extremities, 29 per cent experience hallucinations or lucid dreaming, and 27 per cent experience short-term memory loss.

Despite decades of research, it is still unclear what causes ME/CFS. The disorder is thought to be triggered by a combination of various factors, including viral illnesses, hormone imbalance, immune system issues, and psychological stress. Sometimes, CFS can cause an additional complication of a mental health disorder like depression.

CFS can also have a major impact on a patient’s lifestyle. It can lead to isolation and mood changes, or underperformance at work due to inability to focus. It affects a person’s ability to focus on tasks and be present in conversations.

There’s no cure for CFS, but the symptoms can be managed or treated in some people through routine medication.

Lack of data

Long-haulers have been speaking about experiencing these symptoms since at least March. However, in most cases, they were dismissed as being too minor or exaggerated, forcing patients to turn to social media out of desperation. Support groups were created online, as the actual scale of the problem started to slowly emerge as time passed.

A common factor for ‘long Covid’ seems to be at least one comorbidity, although a significant number of long-haulers tend to be healthy; some even athletic. CFS is primarily experienced normally by women between the ages of 40 and 60, but occurs across ages and sex in Covid patients. Children also suffer from it.

Many long-haulers actually seemed to be in very good health before getting infected with Covid-19. They all displayed a wide variety of symptoms during the most severe or acute phase of their illness, but as the fever and respiratory problems subsided, other problems did not.

Some people have reported symptoms for 120 or even 150 days (four to five months), especially decline in cognitive function and mental ability, tremors, ringing in ears, insomnia or inability to sleep continuously, anorexia or increased appetite, bruising and rashes, chills, and even breathing difficulty.

‘Long Covid’ patients also experience abnormal heart rate, persistent diarrhoea, rapid weight loss and other digestive issues, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), nausea, extreme thirst, loss of taste and smell, and vision and hearing loss.

Also read: Children with Covid-19 could develop neurological symptoms like headaches, reveals study


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