- Risk Factors
Most people with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate symptoms such as cough, fever, and shortness of breath. In some cases, however, COVID-19 can cause life-threatening lung complications such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and sepsis.
What are symptoms of COVID-19 pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a serious condition in which the lungs get filled with fluid and pus, resulting in severe breathing difficulties. With COVID-19 pneumonia, the virus tends to attack both lungs, causing both air sacs to fill with fluid and reduce their capacity to hold in oxygen. This can lead to symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dry cough
- Chest pain
- Heavy sweating
These symptoms may or may not accompany other COVID-19 symptoms, such as:
What are risk factors for developing COVID-19 pneumonia?
Factors that can increase the risk of developing COVID-19 pneumonia include:
- Disease severity: More severe cases are more likely to cause lung complications.
- Treatment: Prompt, quality treatment of COVID-19 can help minimize the risk of lung damage.
- Medical conditions: People with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of developing pneumonia with COVID-19:
Although anyone can get COVID-19, people with the following risk factors have a greater chance of developing pneumonia as a complication:
- Age over 65
- Moderate to severe asthma
- Lung disease
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Renal failure
- Severe obesity
- Conditions that compromise the immune system such as AIDS and cancers
- Taking cancer medications or steroids
- Previous bone marrow transplant
Even if you do not have the risk factors listed above, it is important to exercise caution and practice safety measures to protect yourself against COVID-19.
What are complications of COVID-19 pneumonia?
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS): As COVID-19 pneumonia progresses, more and more air sacs get filled with fluid, causing tiny blood vessels in the lungs to leak. This can lead to the next stage of lung damage, ARDS. ARDS requires ventilator support and can be fatal if not treated early. People recovering from ARDS and COVID-19 may have long-lasting lung scarring.
- Sepsis: Sepsis is another possible complication where the infection spreads to the bloodstream and damages every tissue it reaches. This can disrupt the coordination between the lungs, heart, and other body systems, causing them to fall apart. The final result of sepsis is coma and eventually death. Even if a person survives sepsis, it can cause long-lasting lung scarring.
What is the recovery time for COVID-19 pneumonia?
The recovery time for COVID-19 pneumonia ranges from 3-6 weeks or even longer. Recovering from pneumonia and regaining strength can take weeks to months.
During recovery, the body first repairs the damage caused to the lungs. Next, it clears the fluid and debris from the lungs.
Recovery may depend on your:
- Overall health
- Severity of infection
- Pre-existing medical conditions
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ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome)
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a lung condition in which trauma to the lungs leads to inflammation of the lungs, accumulation of fluid in the alveolar air sacs, low blood oxygen, and respiratory distress. ARDS can be life-threatening. Signs and symptoms of are shortness of breath and low levels of oxygen in the blood, which can cause your organs to fail.
Causes of ARDS include:
- Aspiration into the lungs
- Severe blow to the chest
- Severe injury with shock
- Drug overdose
- Inflamed pancreas
- Other lung conditions and infections
- Near drowning
There have been genetic factors linked to ARDS. Treatment for includes supplemental oxygen, and/or medication. According to some studies, survival rates for ARDS depend upon the cause associated with it, but can vary from 48% to 68%.
Harman, EM, MD. "Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Clinical Presentation." Medscape. Updated: Aug 11, 2016.
Harman, EM, MD. "Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome." Medscape. Updated: Aug 11, 2016.
PubMed Health. "ARDS." Updated: Jun 11, 2014.
Reynolds, HN. et al. Acute respiratory distress syndrome: estimated incidence and mortality rate in a 5 million-person population base. Crit Care. 1998; 2(1): 29–34. Published online 1998 Mar 12. doi: 10.1186/cc121
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