Those who had covid-19 may suffer symptoms for months after the disease has subsided. Experts warn that the long-term consequences are still drastically underestimated.
Because Covid-19 is a disease of the entire vascular and immune system, a wide variety of symptoms can linger or reappear anywhere in the body. Even hair loss can be a consequence of Covid-19, as some sufferers develop autoantibodies against their own hair roots.
Long Covid: An underestimated problem
Chinese studies from the first wave of the Corona pandemic show that of patients previously treated in clinics, about one in two develops long-covid syndrome. The widespread view that only the very old or pre-diseased are at risk is therefore a misconception. Experts warn against losing sight of these sufferers, as this could also lead to considerable economic problems. After all, many of these people were previously fully employed and were among the so-called top performers in society. If they suffer from Long Covid, they usually have to struggle with chronic fatigue and exhaustion and often also neurological disorders. As a result, many previously dynamic and high-performing people are unable to return to their previous lives fit for work, even after recovery.
Permanent lung damage is possible
The lungs do not always fully recover from Covid-19: once the alveoli are destroyed by the viruses, the tissue scars and fails for gas exchange. Because the lungs are affected in most Covid-19 patients, even those with a mild course and younger sufferers may be left with some shortness of breath – even for long periods of time. This means that the lungs no longer function optimally and the lack of oxygen limits physical performance. In the laboratory, researchers have studied exactly how the corona viruses attack cells of the alveoli. They found that a single virus particle is enough to destroy a cell. Within the first day after the start of the test, 61 percent of the lung cells were already infected and showed clear changes just a few hours later: Some of them formed large cavities and numerous virus particles were visible in the cell plasma. By the time the body’s own defenses were mobilized, the viruses had already infected most of the cells in the lungs. The cellular defense failed and the infected lung cells perished.
The shortness of breath often described after infection, even by people who are only mildly ill, is not just a sign that the lungs are affected. Corona viruses can cause inflammation throughout the body, in every single cell. For example, the heart, brain, kidneys or intestines can be affected. The virus also accelerates the aging processes of the internal organs. Thus, a 30-year-old today can have the lungs of a 40-year-old in two years due to Covid. Other diseases that are not immediately associated with a passed Corona infection could also appear years later, experts suspect.
Because the late symptoms of Covid are very non-specific and sometimes difficult to assess, even in terms of permanent damage, it is advisable for those affected to present themselves regularly at one of the specially established post-Covid outpatient clinics. The road back to normal life can be long for Long Covid sufferers.
source: ndr.de/picture: pixabay.com
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