In a majority of cases, a person with COVID-19 will feel better within a few days or weeks of their first symptoms and generally make a full recovery within 12 weeks. Unfortunately, for some people, symptoms such as fatigue, sleep problems, and shortness of breath can last much longer. This is called long COVID. If symptoms of long COVID are having a big impact on your life, you may benefit from a lung and sleep specialist, such as Dr. Olusegun Oseni of Lung and Sleep Specialists of North Texas.
Although most people who get COVID-19 recover within a few weeks, some people (even those who had only mild versions of the virus) continue to experience health problems long after having the virus. These ongoing health problems are known as long COVID, post-COVID-19 syndrome, or post-acute sequelae of SARS COV-2 infection (PASC).
Long COVID involves a variety of new, returning, or ongoing symptoms that are experienced more than four weeks after getting COVID-19. In some people, long COVID can last for months or years or cause disability. The condition is a relatively new phenomenon and is still being studied to better understand the symptoms, risk factors, and most effective ways to treat the condition.
What are The Symptoms of Long COVID?
Long COVID can have a significant impact on day-to-day life, and although symptoms and their severity can vary between individuals, the most common symptoms of long COVID include:
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Lung (respiratory) symptoms, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or a cough
- Loss of smell (anosmia) or loss of taste (ageusia) or changes to the sense of smell or taste
- Muscle aches
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activity
Other possible symptoms related to long COVID may include:
- Sleep problems, such as insomnia
- Problems with memory or difficulty thinking or concentrating (“brain fog”)
- Dizziness when you stand
- Chest pain/tightness
- Heart palpitations
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Joint or muscle pain
- A pins and needles sensation
- Digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, loss of appetite
- Vascular issues such as blood clots
- Tinnitus and earaches
- Sore throat
- Skin rash
- Changes in menstrual cycle
However, it is not always clear whether these symptoms are due to COVID-19 or another cause, such as a preexisting medical condition. It is also important to note that lasting effects aren’t unique to COVID-19 and that other viral illnesses can also have lasting symptoms. Some chronic illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, can develop after infections and can share similar symptoms to long COVID symptoms.
How Common is Long COVID?
So far, long COVID appears to be more common in adults than in children and teenagers, but anyone who gets COVID-19 can have long-term effects, including people that experienced no symptoms or only mild illness with COVID-19.
Research suggests that as many as 1 in 5 people age 18 to 64 and 1 in 4 people age 65 and over, have at least one medical condition that may be caused by COVID-19 between 1 and 12 months after having the virus.
Are There Any Risk Factors?
Although long COVID can affect anyone, there are thought to be certain risk factors. You might be more likely to have the condition if:
- You had severe illness with COVID-19, especially if you were hospitalized or required intensive care
- You had certain medical conditions prior to getting COVID-19
- While sick with COVID-19 (or afterwards), you had a condition affecting your organs and tissues, such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome
When Should I See A Doctor?
If you are experiencing symptoms of long COVID, you should visit your healthcare provider. Your doctor will assess your personal and family health histories, your symptoms, and they may carry out a physical examination. Diagnostic tests and/or procedures, such as a blood test, liver function test, or chest X-ray, may also be necessary to try to determine the underlying cause of symptoms and to help rule out other conditions.
Prior to your appointment, it may be of benefit to write down information to take with you, such as:
- When you were diagnosed with COVID-19 and when your symptoms started
- How often you experience symptoms
- Whether anything makes your symptoms worse
- How your symptoms affect your daily lifestyle and activities
Information gathered at your visit, along with any test results, can help your healthcare provider come up with a personal medical management plan to help improve symptoms and quality of life. If long COVID symptoms are having a significant impact on your life, you may be referred to a specialist, rehabilitation service, or a service specializing in the specific symptoms you have, such as a lung or sleep specialist.
What Treatment is Available for Long COVID?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one single treatment or medication available to treat long COVID. Treatment can vary depending on the type and severity of long COVID-related symptoms. Often treatment involves a combination of lifestyle changes and treatments that focus on specific symptoms. Lifestyle changes may include quitting smoking, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, reducing stress, gradually improving fitness level, and trying to stay active. Treatments for respiratory-related problems may include a respiratory rehabilitation program, medications such as a bronchodilator, a CPAP machine, or oxygen therapy.
Lung, and Sleep Specialist, Weatherford, TX
If long COVID symptoms, such as respiratory or sleep problems, are having an impact on your quality of life, contact Dr. Olusegun Oseni at Lung and Sleep Specialists of North Texas.
Dr. Olusegun Oseni is board-certified in internal medicine, pulmonary care, sleep medicine, and critical care, and can work with you to develop a treatment plan to alleviate and get to the root cause of your symptoms.
At Lung and Sleep Specialists, we provide holistic care and offer a full spectrum of pulmonary care, encompassing sleep medicine, chronic lung conditions, critical care, and allergy and immunology, to improve the health and overall quality of life for our patients.