Symptoms of Long COVID
“It’s a thing,” says Dr. Alba Miranda Azola, codirector of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s long COVID clinic, in reference to long COVID. Long COVID is a condition characterized by new symptoms that start during or after a COVID-19 infection and persist for weeks or months. These symptoms can vary widely and include lingering cough, fatigue, ear numbness, and a sensation of “brain on fire.” Some experts consider long COVID to be similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, as it often develops after a COVID-19 infection in the same way that other postviral syndromes can occur after infections with herpes, Lyme disease, and Ebola. Other experts argue that long COVID should be defined more broadly as a range of conditions that develop after a COVID-19 infection, including chronic fatigue, organ damage, and other symptoms.
Symptoms and Timing of Aging
Symptoms and timing of aging can vary widely due to genetic and environmental factors. According to the World Health Organization, some common signs of aging include back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and dementia.
These symptoms can overlap with long COVID or feel similar to it. For example, long COVID can cause fatigue, while aging can also lead to decreased energy and increased tiredness. It is important to note that aging symptoms tend to appear gradually, while long COVID symptoms often appear suddenly after a COVID-19 infection.
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Determining the Cause of New Symptoms
It can be difficult to determine whether new symptoms after a COVID-19 infection are due to long COVID, aging, or both. There are no official diagnostic criteria for long COVID, and the definition of the condition varies depending on who you ask. Some experts suggest that the timing of new symptoms can be helpful in determining their cause. Aging symptoms tend to appear gradually, while long COVID symptoms often appear suddenly after a COVID-19 infection. It is also important to consider other factors that could contribute to new symptoms, such as decreased activity during the pandemic or underlying health conditions.
Importance of Seeking Medical Attention
If you are experiencing new symptoms after a COVID-19 infection and are unsure of the cause, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional. They can help determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend the appropriate treatment.
If you have long COVID, it is important to receive proper care and support to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. It is also important to continue practicing good hygiene and following public health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect yourself and others from the virus.
The Aging Population and Long COVID
Given that about 10% of the world’s population is age 65 or older and that the aging process becomes noticeable starting in early middle age for many people, it is not surprising that aging and long COVID often intersect. With more than 650 million officially recorded COVID-19 cases worldwide, it is estimated that nearly 60% of the global population has been infected with the virus.
This means that a significant portion of the population is at risk of developing long COVID or experiencing its symptoms. It is important for healthcare professionals to consider the possibility of long COVID in older patients, as well as the potential overlap with aging symptoms.
Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC)
In addition to long COVID, there are other post-COVID complications that should not be defined as long COVID but rather fit into the larger umbrella category of PASC, or post-acute sequelae of COVID-19.
PASC refers to a wide variety of COVID-19 consequences that can occur after an infection, including chronic fatigue, heart disease, lung damage, and odd new symptoms such as urinary incontinence, itching, and skin lesions. It is important for healthcare professionals to recognize and address these complications in order to provide the best possible care for patients.
Managing Long COVID and PASC
There is currently no specific treatment for long COVID or PASC, and management of these conditions typically involves addressing individual symptoms and supporting patients in managing their overall health. This may include medications to treat specific symptoms, such as pain relievers for joint pain or anti-inflammatory drugs for chronic fatigue. It may also involve lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity or adopting healthier eating habits. Psychosocial support, such as counseling or support groups, can also be helpful for patients who are struggling with the emotional impact of long COVID or PASC.
The Role of Research in Understanding Long COVID and PASC
As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, research is ongoing to better understand the long-term consequences of the virus. This includes studying the prevalence and severity of long COVID and PASC, as well as identifying risk factors for these conditions and developing effective treatment strategies. It is important for healthcare professionals to stay up to date on the latest research in this area in order to provide the best possible care for their patients.
If you are experiencing new symptoms after a COVID-19 infection and are unsure of the cause, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional. They can help determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.
Whether your symptoms are due to long COVID, PASC, aging, or a combination of these factors, it is important to receive proper care and support to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
It is also important to continue practicing good hygiene and following public health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect yourself and others from the virus.