As patients recover from coronavirus, doctors question long-term health impacts
But experts warn of possible long-term effects for patients after surviving the coronavirus. Doctors now know that the disease attacks many systems in the body – from lungs and heart to liver and kidneyssays Yale cardiologist Dr. Harlan Krumholz.
“The virus can attack almost any organ system in the body,” he says, “and… can do so with a ferocity rarely seen and can place people in positions where almost every system in the body is affected. “
The immune system’s response to the coronavirus alone could cause long-term damage as this “ongoing violent battle” puts a strain on the body, says Krumholz.
“The body’s defense system prepares to fight and in doing so releases a lot of substances that both help us fight off the virus, but can also have what we call kinds of systemic effects that can do us. smell ugly, ”he says. . “And it’s almost like it’s friendly fire from our own body.”
Doctors are also learning about the coronavirus’ direct damage to various organ systems, but Krumholz warns that more studies are needed to understand this virus.
“We don’t really deeply understand what we call the physiology path to this, which is really causing the underlying issues,” he says.
At the start of the epidemic, doctors realized that people with heart disease were at higher risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19, Krumholz says. But doctors are now discovering that the virus can actually cause direct damage to the heart.
“A lot more people have mild heart damage than a smaller group with more heart damage, and that’s a consequence we fear,” he says. ” It’s really important. In many cases, we think [it’s] damage that will persist after people get better.
Long-term damage to the lungs is also a major concern with this virus, and Krumholz says some doctors have suggested putting people on vital ventilators too early could help.
Doctors “try different things to prevent them from using ventilators, in part because once on ventilators it has often been difficult to remove people from ventilators and help them recover,” he says. “And some people have suggested that fans might even play a role in that.”
Some doctors have speculated that small blood clots in the lungs could cause severe respiratory distress in some COVID-19 patients, Krumholz says. Some offer to test certain drugs to break up blood clots to see if it helps patients get better.
Hospitals also face a increased need for dialysis machines because many coronavirus patients suffer from kidney damage. Krumholz says a combination of factors puts stress on the kidneys, including the virus entering the kidneys directly and the immune system inadvertently causing damage.
“The direct action of the virus, the body’s reaction, the fluctuations in people’s blood pressure and condition and the drugs we use,” he says, “all of these things can work together to affect the kidneys. ‘a way that makes it harder for people to recover and can put them in a difficult position when they do.
In addition to physical issues, Krumholz says health officials must also be prepared to address any mental challenges Americans might face in the years following their recovery. Many people who have suffered severe cases of COVID-19 and have been hospitalized without their families are likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, he says.
“We want to say, ‘Hey, you’re doing better. You are at home, ”he says. “But sometimes that is just the beginning of a long recovery period where people regain their strength, find their bearings and their mental health suffers during this time because they have just gone through something so difficult and difficult. . “