CHICAGO, Jun 26 (Reuters) – Scientists are just beginning to understand the serious dimension of the health problems caused by the coronavirus, some of which could have noticeable effects on patients for years, according to doctors and experts at the infectious disease.
FILE PHOTO. A health worker attends to a patient with coronavirus (COVID-19), in the Intensive Care Unit of the Clinical Hospital of the University of Chile, in Independencia, Santiago, Chile. June 18, 2020. REUTERS / Iván Alvarado
In addition to respiratory deficiencies that plague patients, the virus that causes COVID-19 attacks many organs in the body, in some cases causing catastrophic damage.
“We thought it was just a respiratory virus. But it turns out that it reaches the pancreas, which attacks the heart. It goes through the liver, brain, kidneys, and other organs. We didn’t realize that at first, ”said Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Institute for Transnational Research in La Jolla, California.
In addition to respiratory distress, COVID-19 patients may experience blood clotting disorders that can lead to strokes and extreme inflammation that attacks multiple organs.
The virus can also cause neurological complications ranging from headaches, dizziness, and loss of taste or smell to seizures and confusion. And recovery can be slow, incomplete, and expensive, with a major impact on quality of life.
The wide and diverse manifestations of COVID-19 represent a unique disorder, said Dr. Sadiya Khan, a cardiologist at the Northwestern Medicine Center in Chicago.
In influenza cases, for example, people with pre-existing heart conditions also have an increased risk of complications, Khan said. But the surprising thing about this coronavirus is the extent of complications that occur outside the lungs.
Kahn believes that there will be a great expense and burden of medical care for people who have survived COVID-19.
Patients who have been in the intensive care unit or connected to a ventilator for weeks will need to spend a lot of time in rehabilitation to regain mobility and strength.
“It can take up to seven days for every day that you are hospitalized to regain that kind of strength,” Kahn said. “It is more difficult when you are older and you may never return to the same level of physical abilities.”
While much of the focus has focused on the minority of patients experiencing severe symptoms, physicians are increasingly paying attention to the needs of patients who were not sick enough to require hospitalization, but still suffer, months after being infected.
While coronavirus symptoms usually resolve within two to three weeks, an estimated 1 in 10 patients experience prolonged symptoms, Dr. Helen Salisbury of the University of Oxford wrote in an article published this week in the British Medical Journal. .
Salisbury said many of her patients have normal chest x-rays and no sign of inflammation, but have not yet returned to normal.
“If you used to run 5 kilometers three times a week before and now feel breathless after a single flight of stairs, or if you cough endlessly and are too exhausted to return to work, then the fear that you will never regain your former health is very real ”, he maintained.
Report by Julie Steenhuysen; additional report by Caroline Humer and Nancy Lapid in New York. Edited in Spanish by Marion Giraldo