Sadly, the effects of COVID-19 don’t necessarily stop once you get a negative result. Doctors from around the world have discovered that the disease may have longer lasting effects on people even after they recover. Long Covid is when the symptoms of COVID-19 last longer than eight weeks after initially catching the disease.
According to the British Heart Foundation, symptoms of long Covid can include fatigue, breathlessness or shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and depression, heart palpitations, chest tightness or pain, joint or muscle pain, not being able to think straight or focus (also known as brain fog), a change in your sense of smell or taste, and persistent cough.
Aside from these symptoms, researchers have recently discovered that COVID-19 may alter the physical structure of the brain.
Altered brain structure
Harvard physician Dr. Aditi Nerurkar shared on Twitter a UK Biobank study on long Covid that found loss of brain tissue in patients earlier diagnosed with COVID-19. The study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, compared the brain scans of individuals from before and after they were diagnosed with COVID-19. The loss of gray matter affected the parts of the brain that control smell, taste, memory, and emotion.
What could be a cause for concern is that these changes were discovered in patients who suffered from mild COVID-19, meaning they were not hospitalized or hooked up to a ventilator while infected.
While the researchers of the study found that the subjects were all diagnosed with COVID-19, there’s still uncertainty whether all of these changes can directly be attributed to the disease.
Long Covid is still mostly a mystery
Most of the existing medical literature and studies conducted on long Covid are from the United Kingdom, where 1.1 million individuals have reported symptoms that have lasted four weeks from their initial COVID-19 infection.
While research like the UK Biobank study has been conducted, the majority of the world (including us) are still in the thick of the pandemic. Vaccines are yet to be made available to everyone, and infections are still rolling in in the thousands daily.