Most of us are used to getting a virus, getting over it and moving on without any lingering effects. The expectation that viral symptoms will disappear after about four weeks is correct for most Covid-19 victims. For some, however, symptoms drag on for a year or more. These patients have a condition known as “long Covid”, a serious long-term illness that can take a heavy toll on those who have it.
According to Jacksonville, Florida Mayo Clinic ICU Director Dr. Davang Sanghavi, “long Covid” patients can be broken into three categories:
- Those who experience symptoms without ever appearing to recover from Covid-19.
- Those who wind up in ICU or the hospital for weeks after getting sick.
- Those who appear to get over their illness completely, only to come down with additional symptoms after the initial recovery period.
It is much easier to explain “long Covid” when it is in the first and second category.
In the first category, the cells of the body have been damaged by Covid-19 in some way. Once this happens, the patient develops symptoms that stay until (and if) the body heals.
In the second category, the hospitalization itself causes symptoms, including muscle weakness, dementia and/or a condition known as “post-ICU care syndrome.
The third category of “long Covid” is less understood. It is thought to be the result of an interaction between the immune system and inflammatory markers. This interaction causes either the immune system or the inflammatory system to “ramp up”, resulting in long-term symptoms. These symptoms can include:
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of Breath
- “Brain fog”
- Kidney damage
- Blood clots
- Hair Loss
- Sick Euthyroid Syndrome
- Loss of smell
- Loss of taste
As time passes, scientists will be able to learn more about just how long “long Covid” is likely to last. Just recently it was found that 88% of patients with loss of smell or taste report a return to normal within two years. While two years can seem like a long time, it can be reassuring to learn the “term” of at least one aspect of this long-term illness.