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What are the long-term effects of COVID-19?

long-term effects of covid-19
Photo via NIAID/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Heart, lung, kidney, and liver damage are some of the clearest consequences of becoming infected with the coronavirus and surviving. However, there are other symptoms that might or might not cause permanent damage. So, what are some of the long-term effects of COVID-19?

One symptom, a loss of sense of smell and taste, indicates the virus could affect the nervous system, and it’s unclear how much damage will be caused to folks infected this way. The body’s immune response to a coronavirus infection, called a cytokine storm, can also damage vital organs. While this has caused death in some cases for people infected with COVID-19, it’s clear that this overactive response can cause permanent damage to varying body systems.

Other long-term damage to organs has been established in cardiac tissue, lungs, kidneys, and the liver. As a result of scarring to tissues in the heart, arrhythmia, which is a root cause of many heart issues such as atrial fibrillation and palpitations, can take hold. A heart issue called myocarditis—the inflammation of the heart muscle— is also one reason many college football teams have canceled their 2020 seasons.

Damage done to lower and upper respiratory tissue can produce complications such as pneumonia and sepsis. 

The kidneys and liver have also shown to be vulnerable after the coronavirus infection has subsided. Clinicians have seen impaired liver function and kidney damage indicated by the presence of protein and blood in urine. Patients in both New York and Wuhan, China have shown reduced kidney function, indicating that it may be a standard lasting effect of the virus. 

“That’s a huge number of people who have this problem. That’s new to me,” Alan Kliger, a nephrologist at the Yale School of Medicine, told the Washington Post. “I think it’s very possible that the virus attaches to the kidney cells and attacks them.”

More long-term effects of COVID-19 are expected to appear as people recover.

Sources: Washington Post, New York Magazine, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Hopkins Medicine


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