Updated: Feb 11
What are the symptoms of long COVID and who is affected most?
The term “Long COVID” is used for describing signs as well as symptoms that will last for a few weeks and/or months after getting diagnosed as a patient of ‘confirmed’ and/or ‘suspected’ case with COVID-19. It may be affecting one’s entire body and there may be the presence of symptoms that may undergo changes and might appear as well as disappear with time. If one thinks that he/she has symptoms of ‘Long COVID’, they must consult their general practitioner first who will check and analyze the symptoms and will try to ascertain any possible reasons for the underlying disease that might require urgent attention. People infected with COVID-19 carry severe infectiousness during 1st week lasting up to 10 days after contacting COVID-19 and developing its symptoms, however, they are not infectious when they present with the symptoms of long COVID.
If someone is infected with coronavirus, then he/she might be having continued symptoms that have lasted for a few weeks and/or months. These symptoms include breathlessness, extreme fatigue or feeling of tiredness, developing any problems with memory as well as concentration which is known as 'brain fog', and presence of cough which has continued ever since one had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Other commonly reported symptoms of Long COVID may include difficulty in sleeping or insomnia, feeling of dizziness, complaining of pins as well as needles, pain in joints, pain or tightness in the chest, palpitations in the heart that may require urgent investigations, depression coupled with anxiety, tinnitus, earache, feeling of nausea, diarrhea, aches in the stomach, loss of appetite, elevated temperature, persistent cough, headache, sore throat, alterations in sense of smell and/or taste and rashes. Hence it is important to seek medical assistance.
Centric Healthcare has been seeing patients with symptoms of long COVID and managing them accordingly.
How is long COVID diagnosed?
If one thinks that he or she might be suffering from long COVID, it is very important to get assistance from specialized medical professionals who deal with this on a regular basis. Since this illness is very unpredictable and has a relapsing and remitting pattern and may be associated with other conditions that appear after passing of many weeks or months since being diagnosed with this disease, well-trained clinicians are required to maintain a high standard of suspicion for diagnosing long COVID. Also, a diagnostic physician must maintain a lower threshold for referring secondary health care specialists who have experience in running clinics specialized for COVID patients.
The diagnosis of long COVID must be considered for patients with a past clinical diagnosis of COVID-19, or for those individuals who have been tested ‘positive’ for COVID-19. Long COVID presents with newer or fluctuating clinical symptoms that include loss of breath, pain in the chest, heart palpitations, unexplained tachycardia, wheezing, stridor, presence of urticaria, pain in abdomen, diarrhea, arthralgia or pain in joints, neuralgia, dysphonia, fatigue ness, neuro-cognitive fatigue, cognitive loss, prolonged episode of pyrexia and neuropathy which may persist more than 4 weeks of diagnosing initial symptoms of COVID-19.
Since the basic knowledge concerning Long COVID is still evolving, any of the related as well as an associated condition must be fully delineated however, few accepted disease sequelae must include myocarditis, pericarditis, angina, cardiac arrhythmias (sinus tachycardia, atrial fluttering, atrial fibrillation, ventricular ectopics), dysautonomia (postural or orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), activation of mast cells that leads to urticaria, angioedema and intolerance towards histamine, interstitial pulmonary disease, thromboembolic disease, for example, pulmonary embolus, micro-thrombi or cerebral venous thrombosis, myelopathies, neuropathies, disorders of neurocognition, impairment of renal system, newly diagnosed diabetes, thyroiditis, hepatitis, abnormal levels of liver enzymes, persisting gastro-intestinal disturbances that include gastroesophageal reflux, diarrhea, loss of appetite, allergic reaction and anaphylaxis as well as dysphonia.
What is the treatment of long COVID?
Long COVID is a "multiple systems, multiple organ” disease condition that has wide as well as divergent presentations. In Medical terms, patients diagnosed with long COVID may require assistance from many specialists such as cardiologists, neurologists, nephrologists, and rheumatologists. Many patients will benefit from seeking care for any related mental health issues they are experiencing. Physiotherapeutic professionals involved with rehabilitation must fully understand Post-Exertional malaise and dangers in encouraging an increase in physical activities before assuming complete activities. Physiotherapy personnel might completely understand the value of treatment and the degree to which many patients need to use this strategy to get symptoms under control.
All such professional healthcare personnel must possess clear concepts on cardio-respiratory rehabilitation along with intervention and also must comply with strategies towards good recovery. Both the patient and rehabilitative or treating physician must be capable of understanding that all reported symptoms must not be treated as isolated problems but can be a part of bigger health issues. Centric Healthcare makes use of medical professionals along with physiotherapy individuals to treat and manage long COVID patients.
Are there any separate investigations or treatments available for long COVID?
At present, there are no treatments that are available for tackling ‘Long COVID’. The treatment that is given to long COVID patients is extremely personalized and is dependent upon the chief symptoms that any patient might be experiencing. However, there are no specialized treatments available at this time, hence, it is important to have surety about the absence of any other pathological condition that might be treatable before arriving at the diagnosis of ‘Long COVID’.
Various investigations might include different blood tests for analyzing specific markers indicative of any structural damage, the use of MRI and CT scans along a few new techniques. One such ongoing test is administering patients with xenon which is a non-toxic gaseous substance and is visible over various scans as it might be traveling throughout one’s body and hence, might, therefore, be showing if one’s complaint regarding breathlessness has been caused by any damage to lungs or blood vasculature. Similarly, there is also ongoing research that is trying to analyze cytokines in the blood which are specific molecules and have the potential of acting as bio-markers for an existing hyper-active immunological response in any patient who is suspected to be suffering from ‘long covid’. Few of these investigations and scanning tools may be used for tracking the response of treatment of long covid symptoms.
Treatments provided by healthcare services including Centric Healthcare are symptom-based. Major trials are being conducted for several already available drugs and methods of rehabilitation that have been used for the treatment of similar disorders as a result of cardiac diseases or chronic pulmonary diseases. Various drugs that are undergoing investigation include a few cheap as well as widely used medications such as aspirin as well as antihistamines. Various protocols for the rehabilitation and applications that help individuals coping up with the presenting symptoms may be tested as well.
Some of the research-based discoveries that have emerged may contribute towards understanding along with treatments of various disease ailments that may present with similar as well as overlapping symptoms, for example, Lyme’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome.