COVID-19 Can Cause Long-Term Respiratory Problems

Whereas short-term health effects from the new severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can last for weeks, the long-term after-effects of COVID-19 can be injurious for health and can result in numerous health defects that can last for months.

The patients that are still in a recovery phase of COVID-19 need extra precautions and care as they are likely to develop respiratory illnesses for a longer period after their initial infection, says a recent paper published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Usually, the recovery phase of COVID-19 takes about two weeks after the initial mild symptoms began to appear whereas for moderate to severe cases the recovery period would become from three to six weeks. But, if the symptoms persist for months than the condition will eventually cause other health conditions.

As per the current paper, the long term and persistent symptoms of COVID-19 can result in various respiratory illnesses such as chronic cough, fibrotic lung disease, bronchiectasis, or a permanent abnormal dilation of one or more large bronchi. The continuous symptoms of the deadly coronavirus can also cause pulmonary vascular disease that can be defined as an umbrella term that includes every condition that affects the blood vessels within the lungs.

An Overview of Previous Infectious Viruses

It has been reported that an estimated 30% of the population that had experienced a long term symptom of SARS or the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) had an underlying condition including lung abnormalities after their acute illness.

The author of the current paper has also mentioned a comparative analysis of two different studies that were held in hospitals of Beijing and Hong Kong. Both of the studies suggest that people who caught SARS infection have also experienced persisting impairments in lung function. A total of 71 patients, 38% of them from the study held in Beijing were found to have parenchymal abnormalities such as increased or decreased vessel diameter, vascular compression, or intraluminal filling defect. Later, the researchers concluded that the abnormalities were mainly due to a major contributing factor included muscle weakness after the disease.

Furthermore, the experts also consider a condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a condition that develops inflammation in the lung caused by the fluid that builds up in the tiny, elastic air sacs in the lungs. The small air sacs are known as ‘alveoli’ in which the fluid keeps filling the air results into respiratory failure as the bloodstream does not get enough oxygen due to the fluid.

Source: Drager USA

It will surely take some time to get a full picture of the long term consequences of COVID-19 that has wreaked havoc by making destruction and taking life on a devastating level around the globe. It has been known from data extracted from the Worldometer that more than 18.4 million people have been sickened due to the deadly coronavirus whereas almost 700,000 people have lost their battle against the life-threatening infectious COVID-19.

Source: Worldometer

Comparison of Previous Infectious Viruses with COVID-19

Researchers around the world are in a race to determine the similarities between older infections including SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV with the new SARS-CoV-2. But, it will take a little bit more time to get a full picture of all the after-effects or the long term consequences of the novel coronavirus as compared to the earlier infectious viruses.

Long term outcomes of COVID-19 might not be comparable with the older viruses due to certain contributing factors including age, gender, and pre-existing diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or hypertension, obesity, high blood pressure, and asthma that can heighten the risk of making the coronavirus even more deadly.

The author also describes the fact that COVID-19 attacks the alveolar epithelial cells located in the lungs and involve in the respiratory system. On another hand, other pathogens including herpes viruses also infect alveolar epithelial cells.

The scientists around the world are still in an urge to make a vaccine or drug that can fight against the deadly virus but still, there is no pharmaceutical drug that has been approved yet that can directly hit the virus.

Viruses like COVID-19 and SARS cause inflammation in the respiratory system. Previously, the medical health professional targets the inflammation by using High dose steroids to put a stop to the disease.

Recently, the experts used dexamethasone to target the COVID-19 but the drug did not show promising outcomes to control acute outcomes among patients with milder symptoms of the coronavirus.

Radiography for Patients with COVID-19

British Thoracic Society (BTS) suggested radiography to investigate lung diseases for those patients who have been recovered from COVID-19. It has been recommended that the radiography will be applied to the recovered patients after three months from the beginning of initial symptoms of the coronavirus.

The author mentioned: “Chest radiography might be helpful, and patients can be referred to respiratory clinics for investigation of persisting lung abnormalities and thromboembolic disease. Integrated support from a broader primary care team should be considered for patients with more complex symptoms, including those with disproportionate functional impairment”.

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