If you know anyone who has had COVID-19, then you may have seen them struggle with health issues due to the virus, not to mention the missed time from work/school and the costs involved with doctor visits or hospital stays.
An estimated 10% to 20% of people who have had COVID-19 are experiencing certain symptoms after their virus recovery. This population group has what’s called post-COVID symptoms or long COVID. They also are called COVID long haulers. The symptoms they develop after having the virus may occur even if someone had only a mild case of the coronavirus. The symptoms also are occurring in otherwise healthy, younger individuals as well as older adults.
Long COVID is associated with a laundry list of problems. The group Survivor Corps, formed last year at the Indiana University Department of Medicine, shared results of a survey in July that indicated the most common symptoms experienced by COVID-19 long haulers. The top 10 were:
- Muscle/body aches
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to exercise
- Trouble sleeping
- Memory problems
Heart problems, such as a faster heart rate, are another common complaint among those with long COVID. Brain fog is another common complaint. Again, the list of problems is extensive and wide-reaching.
Doctors are still attempting to determine why some patients develop long COVID and others do not. One theory is that their bodies have developed antibodies to attack itself instead of attacking the virus. In addition to the virus-related physical symptoms, those with long COVID may experience anxiety about their health and their quest to find relief from the symptoms. Some doctors may be dismissive of the problems.
There is no solid treatment for long COVID yet, but doctors often will treat the symptoms. For instance, a doctor may prescribe a medicine to help lower the heart rate in someone who has developed a faster heart rate. Activities that can help lower stress, such as breathing exercises and meditation, also may be of some help no matter what the symptoms are.
Doctors do see improvement over time in some patients with long COVID, but the results are too mixed to make a firm statement for what everyone with long COVID will experience.
If you have had COVID and you are experiencing new health symptoms, talk to your doctor and your nurse care manager if you have one. If you believe your doctor isn’t listening to your health problems, consider finding a new health provider who will listen and take it seriously. Do your best to keep track of your symptoms so you can share them with health providers and your loved ones.
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