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Covid-19 has emerged as one of the toughest challenges that humanity has been faced with and for the past two years, people of all ages have been tremendously affected by the virus. With several variants, multiple lockdowns, and restrictions globally, it has affected every walk of life. The virus has not only drained people physically but also mentally, as well as economically.
Most people with the coronavirus disease recover completely within a few weeks, but some continue to experience symptoms even after their initial recovery. People with symptoms beyond four weeks are referred to as ‘long haulers’ and the condition is known as long Covid-19.
Elderly people with comorbidities, as well as some young adults, experience symptoms for weeks to months after the initial infection. The most common long-term symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath, myalgia, cough, chest pain, brain fog, sleep disorder, loss of smell and taste, anxiety, depression, fever, dizziness, and chronic fatigue.
The latest variant, Omicron, is said to be causing as much concern as its predecessor, the Delta variant and thus, it is important to understand the nuances of the disease.
Covid-19 primarily affects the lungs, causing cough and breathlessness in the patient. In some cases, it may also affect the heart, kidneys, and brain, for as long as six months, even post a mild infection. Some children and adults experience multi-system inflammatory syndrome, which causes multiple organs to inflame. Patients may experience brain fog or even sinus tachycardia. To limit the possibility, one must focus on their post-Covid treatment as recommended by their doctor; else any delay will have to be critically treated with urgency before it could potentially be fatal.
Covid-19 causes hypercoagulability; this condition possesses an increased risk to develop blood clots. When a blood clot is formed within a blood vessel, it becomes a problem. Individuals in a hypercoagulable state are at increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, lung, liver, and kidney damage, as well as Covid toes, that is swollen and discoloured toes. Symptoms of hypercoagulability include shooting pain in the limbs, neuropathies, heightened sensitivity to stimulation of the senses, irritability, insomnia, dental pain, etc. It is recommended for those who are under long-Covid care to monitor themselves for unknown or new changes or symptoms and treatment options should be guided by an experienced clinician.
Survivors of severe Covid-19 may suffer from anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorders. Chronic fatigue syndrome is another possibility that causes one to experience extreme fatigue for at least six months. This condition does not improve with rest alone. It is recommended to seek professional help to overcome this.
An increased incidence of type 2 diabetes has been seen in post-Covid-19 patients. Complications of mucormycosis (a fungal Infection) have worsened the situation. The strict control of diabetes as well as other comorbidities along with rehabilitation and supervised physical exercise, supported by optimal nutrition could help in lowering and managing post-Covid19 diabetes.
The mechanism and pathogenesis of long-term Covid-19 are still not fully understood. Health care providers must acknowledge the symptoms of long-term Covid-19 and be prepared to meet their physical, social, and cognitive elements. It is a challenge to which the entire medical community and society should rise.