Typical symptoms of long COVID-19
Most people recover from COVID-19 in two weeks. A few people can have symptoms lasting more than four weeks after diagnosis, a condition called "post-COVID-19 syndrome" or "long COVID-19". Here are some of the most common long-term COVID-19 effects. We'll also cover what experts say about getting pregnant after COVID-19 and other possible symptoms.
The most common symptom of COVID-19 is fatigue. It can be hard to walk short distances or do simple exercises without feeling exhausted. This exhaustion worsens after any mental or physical activity, and it doesn't get better after rest.
Other common symptoms include:
- Tightness in the chest
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain in the muscles, joints, or chest
- Difficulty sleeping
- Finding it hard to remember things
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increase in heartbeat
- Losing of smell or taste
- Feeling depressed or anxious
- Dizziness when standing up
- Brain fog or feeling less alert
- Difficulty concentrating
Severe cases of COVID-19 can cause more than one organ system in the body to stop working. Multi-organ failure can lead to increased time in the hospital. It can also increase the risk of death.
The most severe symptom affecting the respiratory system is pneumonia. Pneumonia caused by COVID-19 can look very similar to other respiratory infections.
The usual signs of pneumonia are:
- difficulty breathing
- chest pain
- shortness of breath (dyspnea)
Pulmonary disease is the leading cause of death when it develops after getting COVID-19.
Severe COVID-19 can cause Myocarditis in developed countries like the United States. Myocarditis is inflammation in the heart muscle called the myocardium. This makes it hard for the heart to pump blood and can cause the heart to beat faster than usual or irregularly.
COVID-19 can cause changes in blood composition and increase the level of infection. Inherited blood disorders like sickle cell anemia or thalassemia can put you at a higher risk of getting severe COVID-19 symptoms.
The way your liver functions can tell doctors a lot about whether your infection is getting better or worse. Liver injury is more common in serious cases of COVID-19. Other conditions like acute renal failure, cholestasis, fatty liver, and Hypoalbuminaemia can also develop.
Your neurological system controls the way you think and move. It drives natural processes in your body like breathing, digestion, and puberty. It also controls the way you respond automatically to the world around you.
Neurological diseases can be mild, moderate, or severe following COVID-19. You may get:
- Hypoplasia, when an organ or body part doesn't develop fully
- Neuralgia, or pain in a nerve pathway
- Muscle pain called Myalgia
- Loss of smell called Anosmia
- Loss of taste or Hypogeusia
- Head pain
- Reduced consciousness
- Loss of muscle control or Ataxia
- Acute cerebrovascular disease, a condition that affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain
- Seizures or Epilepsy
- Acute Flaccid Paralysis, a condition affecting the spinal cord
- Inflammation of the brain called Encephalitis
- Demyelination, a condition affecting the myelin sheath protecting your nerve cells
- Brain stroke
- Encephalopathy, a condition that changes the structure or function of the brain
Long periods of hospitalization and specialized treatment can cause depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress syndrome. Talk to your primary care practitioner about how you feel, so they can arrange support if needed.
A psychologist or psychiatrist will join your care team if you're already in the hospital. They will set up a treatment plan and monitor how you're doing.
Other unknown symptoms
Because we're still learning about COVID-19, we don't know all the possible long-term effects of the condition. Medical practitioners will keep updating their treatments as they have more information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is studying who is more likely to have long-term effects and why. Studies on the long-term effects will help them understand the condition better so they can develop effective treatments.
There is no single treatment or medication for long COVID-19. The symptoms and treatment options can vary from person to person.
Your primary care physician will ask you a series of questions to understand your symptoms.
They will then do a physical examination. Your physician will test all the major systems in your body, like your lungs, heart, and nervous system.
Your mental health will also be checked. Long-term COVID-19 conditions can cause depression and anxiety. Once all the tests have been completed, your physician will decide on a treatment plan.
Your physician may refer you to specialists if you have medical conditions that need extra support. If you have issues with your breathing, you may need to see a pulmonologist and a cardiologist for heart problems. If you're suffering from anxiety and depression, you may be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Sometimes you'll have a team of specialists who will monitor you and follow up on your progress until you recover.
Getting pregnant after COVID-19
If you're thinking about getting pregnant after COVID-19, you should make sure your COVID-19 vaccine schedule is up-to-date and get your booster shot when it's due. If you get the infection while you're pregnant, it can cause many complications.
The vaccines are safe to take whether you're pregnant or are planning for a baby, and they do not have any negative effects on fertility.
When to contact a doctor
Contact your doctor if you still have symptoms 28 days after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Remember to drink a lot of fluids and get a lot of rest while you're on your treatment. Also, follow the basic precautions like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and keeping your hands clean.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
British Heart Foundation: "Long Covid: the symptoms and tips for recovery."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "COVID-19 Vaccines for People Who Would Like to Have a Baby," "Post-Covid Conditions."
Cleveland Clinic: "What It Means to Be a Coronavirus “Long-Hauler,” "Nervous System."
Journal of Medical Histology: "COVID-19 and multiorgan failure: A narrative review on potential mechanisms."
Mayo Clinic: "COVID-19 (coronavirus): Long-term effects," "COVID-19: Who's at higher risk of serious symptoms?" "Myocarditis."
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