Long Covid victim discusses daily impact of virus
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The study, conducted in Belgium, followed 66 patients who had been hospitalised by COVID-19 in March and April 2020.
The reason for the study was to investigate whether some heart abnormalities were more common in those with long-Covid suffering from breathlessness and whether this could explain other symptoms that they had been suffering.
It was found that “more than a third of COVID-19 patients with no history of heart or lung disease had persistent dyspnoea on effort a year after discharge from hospital” according to Dr Maria-Luiza Luchian of University Hospital Brussels.
This means that one third of patients experienced breathlessness during physical efforts a year after leaving hospital.
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Dr Luchian explained what this means for our understanding of long-Covid and that, “it might be linked to a decrease in heart performance”.
This isn’t the first time COVID-19 has been linked with heart damage.
A study by Imperial College London found that half of Covid patients discharged from hospital had damage to their hearts as a result of the virus.
Whilst some of the heart damage may have been accrued before the infection, the study nevertheless posited that “some the damage was new and likely caused by COVID-19. In the most severe cases, there are concerns that this injury may increase the risks of heart failure in the future”.
Whilst these studies suggest that the virus results in heart damage and that one of the symptoms of long-Covid may be breathlessness, there are two caveats.
Firstly, both studies were relatively small; the Belgian study had just 66 participants and Imperial’s study 148.
Secondly, they aren’t definitive studies with Imperial stating, “more work is needed to investigate this further”.
Similarly, Dr Luchian from the Belgian study says that COVID-19, “might be linked to a decrease in heart performance”.
Nevertheless, despite the size of the study, the data provides another level of understanding of long-Covid, a disease that will have long-term consequences not just for the patients who suffer from it, but for the healthcare systems that manage it.
According to the NHS website, these are the most common symptoms of long-Covid.
• Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain or tightness
• Problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
• Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
• Heart palpitations
• Pins and needles
• Joint pain
• Depression and anxiety
• Tinnitus, earaches
• Feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
• High temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
As well as improving our understanding of the symptoms of long-Covid, there is also work ongoing to develop treatments for long-Covid.
So far, the focus is on managing the existing symptoms, but there is hope that with more data on the condition that there will be more effective treatments for it.
For now, as with other areas of the pandemic, we are in a management phase rather than an eradication phase.
Whilst the risk of long-Covid is statistically low, it is essential that more people get vaccinated so they have less chance of transmitting the virus to other who may develop it in turn.
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