Post Covid-19: The battle scars

Unpicking the lasting effects of Covid-19

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, better known as Covid-19, has caused millions of lives. The infection rate of Covid-19 is still on a rise in many countries and everyone is trying their best to keep themselves as well as their family members safe from the highly contagious disease. In Malaysia, thousands continue to be exposed to Covid-19 on a daily basis. Although the majority of infected individuals recover within a few weeks, some individuals may continue to experience Post-Covid Conditions.

About Post-Covid Conditions

Post-Covid conditions (PCC) is sometimes known as Long-Haul Covid, Long Term Effects of Covid or even Post-Acute Covid. It simply refers to an array of new, returning or ongoing health issues that people experience for weeks or even months after being infected with the virus. People who did not present any Covid-19 symptoms (asymptomatic) continue to experience PCC after their initial recovery as well. These conditions can cause a range of health problems for different lengths of time.

Who gets affected with PCC?

Senior citizens or individuals with serious medical conditions are most likely to sustain lingering Covid-19 symptoms. However, younger individuals or otherwise healthy people can feel unwell for weeks to months after the infection.

Some people may experience Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS) during or immediately after being infected by Covid-19. MIS is a condition that causes different body parts to become inflamed. Furthermore, MIS can lead to PCC if multiple organs are affected.

New or continuing symptoms

New or ongoing symptoms can happen to anyone regardless of their age or health conditions. While people with serious health conditions such as heart attack or diabetes may experience much severe symptoms, they still tend to experience a range of common ones. Some may show signs of different combinations to the following symptoms:

  • Fever 
  • Cough 
  • Fatigue 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Pounding heartbeat 
  • Muscle pain or headache 
  • Depression or anxiety 
  • Dizziness when you stand 
  • Memory, concentration or sleep problems
  • Joint or chest pain (sometimes both)

Multi-organ effects of Covid-19

The reason behind these lasting symptoms are still unclear, but one possibility is that they cause impairments in multiple organs. Organ damages can result in long-term health conditions that may require constant medications and treatments. These lasting symptoms are extremely varied and they often fluctuate and move around the body. Organs that may be affected by Covid-19 includes:

 HEART: Despite the fact that Covid-19 is seen as a disease that primarily affects the lungs, it can still damage other organs in the body as well. Certain individuals may still show signs of damage to the heart muscles. This can lead to an increased risk of heart failure or other complications in the near future.

Apart from that, Covid-19 can make blood cells clot. While large blood clots can lead to heart attacks and strokes, the heart damage from Covid-19 is believed to originate from small clots in tiny blood vessels in the heart muscle.

LUNGS: For most people, Covid-19 is a mild to moderate respiratory disease that lasts up to two weeks or more. However, some of these individuals may still have symptoms after a month. Pneumonia associated with Covid-19 causes long-standing damage to the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs) or long-term breathing problems.

BRAIN: Covid-19 may affect the brain function as well as increase the risk of developing severe health conditions that are related to the brain such as strokes, seizures, Parkinson’s Disease and even Alzheimer’s Disease.

Other organs of the body affected by Covid-19 include the liver, kidney and pancreas.

What causes these recurring symptoms?

A key question that many are still in search of is what causes these recurring symptoms to manifest. While there are not much research or evidence to proof these facts, doctors and researchers believe it may be due to:

  • An immune system imbalance triggered by the infection.
  • Deconditioned muscles from spending weeks in bed.
  • Another source of fatigue could be due to the use of a ventilator for a long period of time.

Prevention is always better than cure

The best way to prevent PCC is by getting vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as possible. However, if you have been affected by Covid-19 and recovered but still show signs mentioned above, talk to your doctor about managing it. It is important to understand that the Covid-19 vaccine does not prevent you from being infected but it reduces the severity of infection. Those who have taken the vaccine can still be a carrier of the Covid-19 even if they have been vaccinated. However, the chances of you experiencing life-threatening symptoms is reduced.

5 ways to combat Covid-19 from spreading

  • #1 Get vaccinated against Covid-19.

  • #2 Practice social and physical distancing.

  • #3 Avoid being in crowded areas and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

    • #4 Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth whenever you go out.

  • #5 Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitiser if soap and water aren’t available.

Sources: Gavi The Vaccine Alliance, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)