Long COVID Is Common and Scary!
The People's Pharmacy
04 October 2022
When COVID-19 first appeared, it seemed as if there were just two outcomes for people who caught it: they died, or they got better. Now, though, many people who survive their bout with the coronavirus will become “long haulers.” There is growing evidence that long COVID affects between 10 and 30% of those who become infected with SARS-CoV-2, even if their initial symptoms are mild. Most troubling, the researchers found that 21.5% of adults infected with the Omicron BA.5 variant last summer now battle long COVID. More than four weeks after their infection, these people reported unusual fatigue, shortness of breath or trouble concentrating. Unemployed people and those with pre-existing conditions were most likely to suffer the lasting symptoms of long COVID.
At least three other studies of long COVID have appeared this year. The CDC reports in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR, May 27, 2022) that one in five adults between 18 and 64 years of age have persistent health problems caused by a previous COVID infection. That number is even higher among seniors. One in four people over 65 have lingering symptoms after they recover from the coronavirus.
Another study published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology (May 24, 2022) shows that post-COVID symptoms often last more than a year.
Israeli scientists report that hyperbaric oxygen therapy eases brain fog and some of the other symptoms such as fatigue, depression and pain.
The researchers report in the BMJ that one-third (32 percent) of more than 130,000 Medicare Advantage patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 had new or persistent health problems in the four months following their recovery. It is well known that certain populations (eg, older adults) may be particularly susceptible to cognitive impairment after critical illness; however, in the relatively young cohort in the present study, a substantial proportion exhibited cognitive dysfunction several months after recovering from COVID-19.
Shortness of breath is not the only troublesome symptom of post-COVID syndrome. Research suggests that a significant proportion of those who recover from COVID may suffer from psychiatric or neurologic disorders. Depression and anxiety stood out as among the most common diagnoses. Less common but more serious were strokes and dementia that occurred within six months of recovery.
A significant number of people who “recovered” from COVID-19 went on to develop a major adverse cardiovascular event (MACE). That includes heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI), heart failure (HF), stroke and irregular heart rhythms. Other PCS complications included diabetes and chronic kidney disease.