COVID-19 was discovered only a few months ago and researchers are still trying to learn about its long-term effects. Scientists believe it will take time to have a clear picture of the longer-term consequences of coronavirus.
While some symptoms of the deadly disease are strange and debilitating, there are some which persist and hard to get rid of, like weight loss, extreme fatigue, numbness, chest pain, and difficulty in breathing.
The most worrying thing is that the COVID-19 may be leaving some patients with permanent lung damage. This is evident by the fact that an increasing number of patients are experiencing breathlessness and coughing even months after recovering. Some of them underwent chest scans and it showed irreversible lung scarring.
The exact number of affected people is not known yet but estimates are that 1 in 5 patients who were admitted to ICU are having some form of scarring. According to reports, such permanent damages in the chest are sometimes seen after experiencing some other kinds of infections that cause similar lung inflammation such as pneumonia and the flu.
“We have always seen this before – what’s different is the scale of this,” James Chalmers, a chest physician and adviser to the British Lung Foundation, was quoted as saying by WorldHealth.Net. “Previously, his clinic in Scotland would have seen post-infection scarring of the lungs just once or twice a year. Now we are seeing dozens of patients coming through,” he added.
Italy doctors are scanning lungs of infected patients three months after they fell ill. The study is still ongoing but preliminary results estimate that 15-20 per cent of those treated in the ICU have scarring to some degree.
The scarring is called fibrosis and so there is no known way to reverse it. The only thing that these people can do is to improve their aerobic fitness to attempt to compensate for their lower lung functions.
What’s more worrying is that the problem is not confined to only those who needed ventilation. There are some reports that of patients having long-term complication despite the fact they were not on ventilators.