Experts estimate that the United States alone could have hundreds of thousands of patients with long-term effects of COVID-19. These patients, often called “long haulers,” continue to see symptoms ranging from heart complications to rashes, causing researchers to seek answers down many different paths. Stacker has compiled 36 facts about “long haul” COVID-19 patients, from symptoms to demographics, using data from the Mayo Clinic, The Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project, and new sources.
Many “long haul” COVID-19 patients have symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). They may have debilitating fatigue, brain fog, and even the same challenges that existing CFS patients face when trying to communicate their needs to doctors. Researchers believe many CFS cases come from a viral infection of some kind, and they’ve pointed out that diagnoses of CFS rise after almost all pandemic events.
SARS in particular has offered today’s researchers a way to begin understanding “long haul” COVID-19 patients. Do symptoms that last for months after initial COVID-19 infection necessarily last forever, or will they improve with time or treatment? Doctors must be ready to really listen to patients with these symptoms, but instead, patients have reported having difficulty being taken seriously. This is already a problem people who suffer CFS are familiar with. And research shows that women and minorities already face inferior medical care compared to white men, an issue that predates COVID-19 but has been highlighted during the pandemic and will continue to be a problem in its aftermath.
There are also overlapping effects from “long haul” COVID-19 in different body systems. The heart, for example, may be damaged by the way the virus works and then further weakened by autonomic changes to the heart’s rhythms and damage to the blood vessels. For patients who fear they’re experiencing “long haul” or resurging COVID-19 symptoms, the best idea is to talk to a trusted doctor as soon as possible in order to understand and mitigate harm. This could involve physical therapy, medical treatment, and more.
Read on to learn what we know about CFS and other potential long-term effects of COVID-19.
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