The rising coronavirus cases are just the beginning of a national trauma; many who survive COVID-19 will never be the same. This weekend, EMS World, the emergency medicine journal, reported on those with Post-COVID Syndrome, chronicling "the debilitating conditions recovering SARS-CoV-2 patients are still chronically battling. For a large part of the COVID-19 pandemic, the medical community has been scrambling to just keep sick people alive. Now it's trying to help those survivors live with disabilities secondary to their viral infection." This problem is not some obscure thing: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has predicted it may affect from 10% to up to 30% of those who catch coronavirus. Read on for just a handful of the symptoms mentioned in EMS World, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Chronic Fatigue and Muscle Aches
Most COVID-19 "long haulers"—those who have had COVID long ago but are still not feeling right—have a profound, debilitating fatigue that resembles an existing syndrome: myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). "As the COVID-19 pandemic presses on, doctors are increasingly worried about the significant subset of coronavirus patients…who are suffering symptoms like fatigue, brain fog and chronic pain for months on end," reports Time. "Many of them will soon fit the diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS, which is characterized primarily by debilitating exhaustion lasting six months or longer."
Defined as shortness of breath during exercise or movement, exertional dyspnea can be a sign of heart failure or lung disease, but doctors are seeing patients with Post-COVID Syndrome have it also. "Patients with even milder forms of COVID-19 have persistent symptoms of fatigue and dyspnea up to 60 days post-infection," reports a study by the American College of Cardiology.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, in addition to other underlying medical problems linked to severe COVID-19 infections, chronic heart conditions can arise. He specifically noted reports of possible heart inflammation in people who have recovered. One of them? A German study published in JAMA Cardiology. Using MRIs it found that of people who recovered from the virus, a whopping 78% of patients had cardiac involvement and 60% had ongoing myocardial inflammation, which could lead to chronic damage. He also pointed to another study of college athletes, showing that of those infected with the virus and underwent cardiac MRI, 15% had findings consistent with myocarditis—that's heart inflammation.
Hypercoagulopathy is a blood clotting disorder. "Individuals with COVID-19 may have a number of complex and varied coagulation abnormalities (in the direction of an underlying hypercoagulable state), raising questions about appropriate evaluations and interventions to prevent or treat thrombosis," says a study by Adam Cuker, MD, MS, and Flora Peyvandi, MD, Ph.D.
Brain fog is the unscientific name for an inability to concentrate. "Brain fog, fatigue, and difficulty in concentrating," Dr. Fauci said at the International AIDS Conference. "So this is something we really need to seriously look at because it very well might be a post-viral syndrome associated with COVID-19."
"In addition to systemic and respiratory symptoms, 36.4% (78/214) of patients with COVID-19 develop neurological symptoms, including headache, disturbed consciousness, and paresthesia," found a study in the Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection. Paresthesia is an abnormal sensation of the skin (tingling, pricking, chilling, burning, numbness) with no apparent physical cause.
Altered Sleep Patterns
It's hard to sleep when you're suffering from the symptoms you've been reading about—a pricking in your leg or a blood clot or shortness of breath—not to mention, anxiety can be at an all time high. Given that COVID-19 causes neurological problems, vivid dreams or altered sleep patterns are expected. "It is becoming increasingly apparent that many patients who recovered from the acute phase of the SARS-CoV-2 infection have persistent symptoms," reports World Neurology. "This includes clouding of mentation,"—that's brain activity—"sleep disturbances, exercise intolerance, and autonomic symptoms."
"Dr. Teodor Postolache, a psychiatrist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, estimates that between one-third and one-half of Covid-19 patients experienced some form of mental health problem including anxiety, depression, fatigue or abnormal sleeping," reports the New York Times. Other patients have been found to suffer from delirium.
"As COVID-19 pneumonia progresses, more of the air sacs become filled with fluid leaking from the tiny blood vessels in the lungs. Eventually, shortness of breath sets in, and can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a form of lung failure. Patients with ARDS are often unable to breath on their own and may require ventilator support to help circulate oxygen in the body," reports Johns Hopkins. "Whether it occurs at home or at the hospital, ARDS can be fatal. People who survive ARDS and recover from COVID-19 may have lasting pulmonary scarring."
"A recent analysis of more than 200 people admitted to three hospitals in Hubei, China—the province where the virus called SARS-CoV-2 originated—with mild cases of COVID-19 found that almost 1 in 5 had at least one gastrointestinal symptom, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or belly pain. Nearly 80% also lacked an appetite," reports WebMD. This can last months after the virus is shed.
Raised red bumps on your toes—called chilblains—can indicate you have—or had—COVID. "There is a subset of patients with skin manifestations of COVID that have long-hauler or long-COVID symptoms," Esther E. Freeman, MD, Ph.D., director of global dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, said in a presentation. "This is particularly notable for pernio, or chilblains."
Actress Alyssa Milano is perhaps the most famous long-hauler to lose her hair. "It's hard, especially when you're an actor and so much of your identity is wrapped up in those things like having long silky hair and clean skin," Milano said on Dr. Oz. She said she also suffered from brain fog, making it harder to memorize her lines. If you have experienced this or any of these other symptoms, contact a medical professional, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.