Even though the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has resulted in fewer serious symptoms for those infected, many people may be concerned about long COVID. It is believed that between 10% and 30% of people that recover from coronavirus will experience long COVID.
What is Long COVID?
Long COVID is a range of symptoms that happen after you have gotten over the initial coronavirus infection. They can be new issues or returning, as well as ongoing health problems that occur four weeks after the initial infection.
Even for patients that were asymptomatic during their COVID infection, long COVID can introduce a range of health problems that can last for different lengths of time. Symptoms can include but are not limited to:
■ Breathing issues
■ Chest pain
■ Joint and muscle pain
■ Mental health and memory issues
Medical professionals need to develop methods to recognize when their patient is suffering from long COVID. Research is being done on how to treat long COVID patients, let’s take a look.
Long COVID Treatment Research
Since the COVID-19 pandemic is still relatively recent, there isn’t much research to help doctors diagnose who is more susceptible to developing long COVID. However, a recent collaborative research study has shined some light on some contributing factors causing long COVID.
The research study looked at 300 cases of long COVID and found four main risk factors, these are:
■ Type 2 diabetes
■ Certain autoantibodies in the patient
■ High viral load (RNA)
■ Retriggering of the Epstein-Barr virus, following a childhood infection
Despite these four factors being identified, they don’t necessarily present the same level of risk. Researchers were unable to conclude that type 2 diabetes really increases the risk of long COVID, or it could have been in the many underlying health problems that are included with diabetes.
Also, the high viral load is not all that surprising, given that most of these long COVID patients contracted the illness before vaccinations were widespread. But a high viral load in the blood could have a significant effect on the long-term recovery from coronavirus.
Autoantibodies are basically the opposite of antibodies. While vaccination will give antibodies to the patient, helping fight the virus, autoantibodies change your immune response. These autoantibodies attack your own proteins instead of the foreign pathogens that are invading your system.
While everyone has autoantibodies, higher levels in a patient mean that they don’t respond as well to disease.
The Epstein-Barr virus has been linked to neurological symptoms in long COVID. The virus normally remains latent in the blood, somehow reactivating when COVID enters the system.
Despite this only being a relatively small study, it is the beginning of helping the medical profession understand long COVID more, and develop treatments.
While most of the symptoms that develop with long COVID are treatable, the ability to identify people who may suffer from this condition will allow doctors to prescribe precautionary treatments to lessen the long-term problems this illness causes.