Those who contract Covid-19 may continue to suffer symptoms for months after the disease has subsided. Experts warn that the long-term consequences are still drastically underestimated.
More and more people often take months to recover even after a rather mild course of the disease. And the number of young people affected is increasing. Since Covid-19 is a disease of the entire vascular and immune system, a wide variety of symptoms can remain or arise anywhere in the body. Experts suspect that it could be an autoimmune reaction. For example, hair loss can also be a consequence of Covid-19, as some affected individuals form auto-antibodies against their own hair roots. How covid 19 disease affects children in the long term is still poorly understood.
Long-Covid: An underestimated problem
Chinese studies from the first wave of the Corona pandemic show that about one in two patients previously treated in clinics develops long covid syndrome. From over 1.700 Covid patients, 76 percent still had at least one symptom after up to six months. Exhaustion and muscle weakness were most common. Sleep disturbances were complained of by 26 percent and depression by 23 percent. Hair loss was also common among those affected.
The widespread view that only very old or pre-diseased people are at risk is therefore a misconception. Experts warn against losing sight of these sufferers, as this could also result in considerable economic problems. After all, many of these people were previously fully employed and were among the so-called top performers in society.
Covid-19: What are the late effects??
Interview with Dr. Jordis Frommhold, pulmonary specialist at the Median Clinic Heiligendamm. 5 min
Permanent lung damage is possible
The lungs do not always recover completely from Covid-19: If the alveoli are destroyed by the viruses, the tissue becomes scarred and fails to exchange gas. Because the lungs are affected in most Covid 19 patients, even those with a mild course and younger sufferers may be left with some shortness of breath – even over longer periods of time. This means that the lungs no longer function optimally and the lack of oxygen limits physical performance. In the laboratory, researchers have studied exactly how the coronaviruses attack cells in the alveoli of the lungs. They found that a single virus particle is sufficient to destroy a cell. Within the first day of testing, 61 percent of lung cells were already infected and showed significant changes just a few hours later. Some of them formed large cavities and numerous virus particles were visible in the cell plasma. By the time the body’s defenses were mobilized, the viruses had already infected most cells in the lungs. The cell’s own defense failed and the infected lung cells perished.
Inflammation possible throughout the body
The shortness of breath often described after infection, even by people who are only mildly ill, is not just a sign that the lungs are affected. Coronaviruses can cause inflammation throughout the body, in every single cell. For example, the heart, brain, kidneys or intestines can be affected. Cardiologists at Berlin’s Charite University Hospital believe that 10 to 15 percent of covid sufferers with a severe course have inflammation of the heart. No one can yet say what effects this will have in the long term. There is a lack of meaningful studies. Cardiologists therefore consider stress ECGs after an infection to be useful.
Fatigue: danger of chronic exhaustion
A major problem is more and more the persistent exhaustion, the so-called fatigue, accompanied by headaches and muscle pains. In the worst case the condition becomes chronic.
The virus also accelerates the aging processes of the internal organs. In this way, a 30-year-old today can have the lungs of a 40-year-old in two years thanks to Covid. Other diseases, which you don’t immediately associate with a corona infection you’ve been through, could also appear years later, experts suggest.