What scientists already know is that one does not need to be seriously ill with Covid-19 to experience symptoms that persist for months
Even though three months have passed since they became ill with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, many patients with Covid-19 continue to have symptoms, two new scientific studies confirm, one in Spain and one in the United States. The more severe the initial infection, especially if there was severe difficulty breathing, the more likely the problems were to persist for a long time.
The Spanish study studied 108 patients with Covid-19, with an average age of 56 years, of whom 44 had been seriously ill for some time. Three months after the initial diagnosis of the disease, three in four patients (76%) continued to report at least one problem in their body, with 40% having at least three different persistent symptoms.
The most common complaints were shortness of breath, physical weakness, cough, chest pain, palpitations, as well as mental and intellectual problems. All patients were found – by test – to have developed antibodies to the coronavirus three months after the initial infection.
The US study conducted on 233 patients with Covid-19, eight of whom had a severe clinical picture when they became ill, found that one in four (24%) had at least one symptom after three months, while 43% had symptoms for more than a month. The problems were greater in those patients who had the most severe symptoms during the initial infection (60% had problems for one month and 41% for three months).
However, even patients with mild initial or asymptomatic symptoms had 14% complications after a month or more. The most common persistent symptoms reported were decreased sense of smell and taste (odor and taste), difficulty concentrating, shortness of breath, memory loss, mental confusion, headaches, palpitations, chest pains and dizziness.
The case of a 55-year-old American woman from Brooklyn is typical, who, before she became ill with Covid-19 and showed severe shortness of breath (without being admitted to hospital), was healthy, active and athletic, but now, after six months, she feels exhausted even with a short walk, according to the New York Times. She continues to feel, as she says, “a heavyweight like cement” flattening her chest, she has colds, coughs, sore throats, dry mouth, heart arrhythmia, stress, etc. In addition, she was found after the infection with the coronavirus having problems she never had before, such as prediabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Doctors are not yet sure if Covid-19 can cause – as a long-term side effect – diabetes and other metabolic disorders or cardiovascular, neurological and mental illnesses (although there is evidence of this). At present, many things remain unknown about the possible long-term effects of the disease. What scientists already know is that one does not need to be seriously ill with Covid-19 to experience symptoms that persist for months (and possibly years, something that will be seen in the future).
Both studies were presented with a pre-publication on the medRxiv medical database (there are no regular scientific publications yet).