This diagram shows the long-term effects of Covid-19

With the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become clear that some of the healed are struggling to recover from the infection. Some symptoms can persist for months in a debilitating fashion, not only in people who have experienced severe Covid-19 but also in those who have passed a mild or moderate infection. To shed light on these consequences, also known as “Long Covid” or long-term after-effects of Covid-19, is a new study published in the journal Nature by a US team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis who provided a general overview of the post-Covid syndrome. Scholars have also shown that the recovered, including those who have not requested hospitalization, are at an increased risk of death in the six months following the diagnosis of Covid-19.

The long-term impact of Covid-19

The study, which to date is the largest analysis on the outcomes of the infection, involved about 87,000 patients with Covid-19 in the United States, of which over 73,000 were not hospitalized, and an additional control group of nearly 5 million people. Comparison of clinical data, extracted from the federal database of the Veterans Health Administration, made it possible to calculate that, after recovery from the initial infection (after the first 30 days of illness), patients who overcome the disease have a higher risk of death. tall by almost 60% in the six months following remission, determined by a series of complications that can have an enormous burden in the survivors in the years to come.

The long-term effects of Covid – 19
in photo: The long-term effects of Covid – 19

At the end of the six months, the researchers indicate, the excess deaths among all Covid-19 survivors are estimated at 8 deaths per 1,000 patients, a ratio that among patients requiring hospitalization is three times higher, with 29 excess deaths per 1,000 patients six months after recovery. “These subsequent deaths are due to long-term complications of the infection and are not necessarily recorded as deaths from Covid-19 – said the senior author of the study, Ziyad Al-Aly, professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis as well as Director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center and head of the Research and Education Service of the Veterans Affairs Saint Louis Health Care System -. As for the total death toll from the pandemic, these numbers suggest that the deaths we are counting from viral infection they are just the tip of the iceberg.

The consequences for almost all organs

To understand the long-term effects of the disease, the researchers conducted a separate analysis of the medical records of over 13,000 patients hospitalized with Covid-19, comparing them with those of as many patients hospitalized with seasonal flu. The comparison revealed the main newly diagnosed health problems that persisted in Covid-19 patients at six months of infection. These conditions, summarized in the diagram above, have been observed in almost all the organs and systems of the human body:

  • Respiratory system: persistent cough, shortness of breath and low blood oxygen levels.
  • Nervous system: stroke, headache, memory problems and absence or decreased senses of taste and smell.
  • Mental health: anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances and substance abuse.
  • Metabolism: new onset of diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol.
  • Cardiovascular system: acute coronary artery disease, heart failure, palpitations and irregular heart rhythm.
  • Gastrointestinal system: constipation, diarrhea and acid reflux.
  • Rene: acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease which may, in severe cases, require dialysis.
  • Regulation of coagulation: blood clots in the legs and lungs.
  • Skin: rash and hair loss.
  • Musculoskeletal system: joint pain and muscle weakness.
  • General health: malaise, fatigue and anemia.

Clearly, none of the healed suffered from all of these problems, but many experienced a number of different ailments with a significant impact on health and quality of life. “Compared to seasonal flu – Professor Al-Aly added – the aftermath of the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus infection showed a significantly higher burden of disease, both in the extent of the risk and in the extent of organ and system involvement. Some of these problems may improve over time, such as shortness of breath and cough, but others may get worse. We will therefore continue to follow these patients to understand the impact of the viral infection beyond the first six months of Covid-19 diagnosis”.

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