- New data has emerged about the effects of prolonged COVID and the odds that a person will develop it.
- Mental health can put some people at higher risk of developing prolonged COVID.
- The condition can also increase the risk of mental health problems.
- Treatments are also evolving, but a health professional can help you find assistance, such as support groups or medications to relieve physical symptoms.
Stores, schools and stadiums have returned to full capacity. Walk inside one and, depending on where you live, you’ll probably have a hard time finding most people wearing masks.
For the general population, the risk assessment for COVID-19 has been individualized. The virus that shut down businesses and forced schools to work remotely in March 2020 has largely become a reality and a minor nuisance.
But for people experiencing post-COVID conditions, more commonly known as prolonged COVID, life has changed significantly since they got sick.
Although much of the attention has focused on physical symptoms, such as fatigue or cough, new research is emerging on the effects on mental health.
Seattle-based health data company Trueveta recently conducted an analysis for Reuters that indicated that people with prolonged COVID were more likely to start taking prescription antidepressants than people who fully recovered.
The desire to move on and learn to live with COVID-19 is understandable, but experts stress that learning more about the long-term effects of the virus is essential.
“Recognizing the long duration of COVID is important for people with COVID because we can identify and normalize long duration of COVID as a valid illness and offer guidance and treatment to those with this condition,” he says. Dr. Jaclyn Leong, the co-director of the COVID recovery service at UCI Health.
Here’s what we know about the physical and mental effects of prolonged COVID, what scientists are still learning, and where people can turn for resources.
Reports of people with prolonged COVID have included wide percentage ranges. For example, him
A 2021 study He noted that studies have shown that prolonged COVID occurred in 4% to 66% of pediatric patients.
Why all the discrepancies?
“It is impossible to know exactly how many people will experience prolonged COVID, as the condition is still relatively new and scientists are still learning about it,” he says. mandy devriesEdD, MS-RCL, Director of Education for the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC).
But de Vries points out that even 4% is a significant number of patients.
“The virus has now infected tens of millions of people around the world,” says de Vries. “Even if only a small percentage of those people develop long-term COVID, that still represents a large number of people who will be facing health problems for months or even years to come.”
An expert does not see these numbers as a cause for alarm, but rather as an ongoing commitment to protect oneself and others.
“Since we know that the cause of prolonged COVID is having contracted the virus, my best advice is not to panic or be afraid, but to take reasonable precautions to avoid getting COVID in the first place,” says Dr. Jasmin Valentin of Health the same day.
These are the precautions we’ve heard about since 2020,
- keep up with vaccinations and boosters
- testing as needed
- stay home if you suspect or know you have COVID-19
- wear a high quality mask indoors like an N-95
Anyone can experience prolonged COVID, but de Vries says preliminary findings suggest factors that make people more likely to develop prolonged COVID include:
People who have had multiple episodes of COVID-19 are also at higher risk of developing long-lasting symptoms.
There is a wide range of symptoms for prolonged COVID-19, but Valentin says some of the most common include:
- fatigue that interferes with daily life
- cognitive impairment, or brain fog, which makes it hard to think or concentrate
- elevated heart rate
- trouble sleeping
- difficulty breathing
- joint or muscle pain
Scientists have questions about why some people develop prolonged COVID and others don’t. A little study can provide some clues.
The investigation, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases in september 2022, evaluated plasma samples from 63 patients with COVID-19. The scientists saw the spike protein in most blood samples collected from people who experienced COVID for an extended period of up to a year after infection.
Although the research is evolving, Valentin says the new study could lead to promising new developments.
“If this is shown to be true, new antivirals could be developed to target complete eradication of the virus, effectively curing prolonged COVID or even preventing it,” says Valentin.
In the Reuters analysis, researchers looked at more than 1.3 million adults who had COVID and 19,000 with long-term COVID, indicating that people with long-term COVID were twice as likely to receive an antidepressant prescription for the first time than patients who did not develop the condition.
“During recovery, patients may become frustrated by their inability to perform cognitive functions or the inability to return to pre-COVID work responsibilities and recreational activities,” says Gurbinder Sadana, MD, FCCP, medical director of pulmonary rehabilitation. in the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Post-COVID-19 Recovery Program. “This can lead to deeper depression and even suicidal ideation.”
Scientists don’t yet understand whether or not people with prolonged COVID are at increased risk of suicide, but Sadana thinks it’s important to continue exploring this possibility, as it has life-saving implications.
“These are often the most vulnerable patients, they need to be recognized early on and directed toward psychotherapy, including consideration of psychotropic medications,” says Sadana.
Sadana says that recovery can take weeks, and in rare cases, symptoms can persist for a year.
Valentin says treatment options vary from person to person, but some include:
- respiratory therapist care
- beta blockers for fast heart rate
- fludrocortisone for blood pressure problems
- mental health therapy
Sadana says some hospitals offer support groups and special centers for people with prolonged COVID symptoms. Your health care provider can help you find one.