The deadly novel coronavirus remains a puzzling disease with unusual symptoms affecting different parts of the body. When it comes to the lasting effects of the disease on the body, there is much confusion. Robin McNelis, Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist at The Wellington Hospital Post COVID-19 Rehabilitation Programme, part of HCA UK spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk to discuss how COVID-19 may continue to stay in the body and what damage it could do.
Up until now, only one peer-reviewed study has reported results pertaining to the long-term symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
A study from Rome looked at 143 survivors of the disease with most of them not needing hospitalization and were assessed at least 60 days after infection.
The patients described a worsened quality of life even after recovery.
A persistent feeling of fatigue was reported in 53.1 percent, breathlessness included 43.4 percent of the cases, joint pain 27.3 percent and chest pain 21.7 percent of cases.
McNelis said: “COVID-19 has affected millions of people around the world and whilst at first common symptoms were consistent coughing, a high temperature and a headache.
“However, current research estimates that 1 in 20 people will be suffering from long term post-COVID symptoms, those who require intensive care tend to be worst affected.
“Long term post-COVID symptoms can be debilitating when it comes to returning to their normal life, with severe long terms effects including, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal deconditioning, pulmonary embolism, mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
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McNeils described the key signs and symptoms of long-term effects of COVID-19 which include:
Chronic fatigue – A constant feeling of tiredness that leaves you unable to fulfil your usual routine, such as finding your hobbies or work particularly tiring over a prolonged period of time. People suffering with chronic fatigue often find that no amount of rest improves your feelings of fatigue.
Muscular pain – Experiencing constant muscular pain that does not go away despite stretching, resting or over a longer period of time such as a week or two.
Mobility and balance issues – Mobility and balance issues could manifest themselves in difficulty walking, having balance issues on a regular basis, where you are feeling lightheaded or dizzy, some might even experience vertigo.
Cardiovascular and musculoskeletal deconditioning – This could manifest itself in difficulty breathing, especially during day to day activities, or during your usual hobbies. As well as feeling unable to complete tasks or finding your job more difficult than usual.
Pulmonary embolism – Pulmonary embolisms are when your artery is blocked and is a rarer long-term symptom, and one that you are more likely to experience if you have been in intensive care with COVID-19. You could experience pains in your chest, difficulty breathing and find you are coughing up blood.
Mental health conditions – A long term effect of COVID-19 could be mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Depression is a mood disorder that can leave you feeling in a low mood or sad for a prolonged period of time, some who are suffering with depression can occasionally experience suicidal thoughts. Anxiety can manifest itself in feelings of worry and concern, these can be quite severe sometimes and can cause the suffer to experience panic attacks if put in a situation they find uncomfortable.
Breathing Pattern Disorders and Hyperventilation Syndrome – These issues have been seen in post-viral patients for years and are very common with COVID patients, causing or magnifying many symptoms listed above. BPDs mean there is a problem with breathing mechanics, often open mouth and/or upper chest breathing causing increased sensation of breathlessness and shoulder/neck aches and tightness. HVS means someone is breathing more than they need to, which can be quite subtle. This can lead to shortness of breath, dizziness, tingling in the fingers and face and can mimic asthma symptoms.
Experts warn the COVID-19 pandemic is still in its early days with survivors with persistent symptoms, the “long-haulers” are not uncommon with lasting symptoms needing to be studied further.
“At The Wellington Hospital, we have a new Post COVID-19 Rehabilitation Programme that offers patients a multidisciplinary team of experts who can provide a successful recovery for any patient who has battled COVID-19 and is now experiencing long term effects,” added McNelis.
“We have noticed patients to be suffering with a variety of after-effects and urge those suspecting to be suffering to seek medical help.”
Clinical trials in the UK, Europe and the US are currently recruiting patients to help better understand these lasting symptoms and how to overcome them.
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