Hair loss, mental fog, depression, shortness of breath: this is how Long Covid affects one in two patients

from Sergio Harari, Vera Martinella

The book on the ailments that remain in thousands of patients, including children, over twelve weeks after having Covid-19. Here’s what the latest study by experts from the University of Bari says

A great feeling of tiredness, shortness of breath (dyspnoea), pains in the bones, muscles and joints, headache, cough, chest pain or tightness in the chest, difficulty with memory and concentration. These are just some of the ailments that remain in thousands of patients after having COVID-19. But the list of symptoms that persist is very long, as long as that of the open questions on the Long Covid syndrome (the World Health Organization has now decided to officially call it “Post Covid-19 condition”), i.e. the state of health of those who still suffer from problems beyond 12 weeks from the end of the acute phase of Sars-CoV-2 infection.

The investigations

This is also a new disease and science is starting to gather the information to answer it. One of the most recent surveys, published a few days ago in the prestigious magazine The Lancettook into consideration almost 200 studies on the subject for a total of over 120 thousand people involved: more than half (well 57 percent) had signs of Long Covid. It doesn’t matter if you have been symptomatic or asymptomatic and often it does not even depend on the severity of the infection, although those who have been hospitalized (especially in intensive care) are more likely to have unwanted sequelae. Age is also not necessarily a distinction, in fact young people and even children are not exempt, although the elderly still appear to be more in danger. They emerge however differences between disorders that affect the elderly rather than the boys and, it now seems certain, even between the different variants of the virus: for example, persistent changes in smell and taste are more frequent in those who fell ill during the first wave.

Open questions and answers

Although the data of this latest research, coordinated by scholars from the Aldo Moro University of Bari, are of great importance because they evaluate very large numbers of patients, they are not conclusive. There are still many questions that await an answer, but in the book “Post Covid. What we need to know about the long-term consequences of the virus for body and mind »we have collected everything we have learned so far, in an attempt to give concrete information that is useful to those who need and want to know more today. It is the first volume that takes stock of the long-term consequences of the infection on a physical and psychological level, a guide for people who continue to suffer from disorders, to help them understand and interpret the symptoms, to evaluate which tests to do, to whom contact for a correct diagnosis and the most suitable therapies. Let’s try to explain the causes, even if research still has a lot to understand about what triggers Long Covid.

How it manifests itself

In the various chapters we deal with all the problems known for now: those that seem more frequent and affect the respiratory, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems, but also the others whose extent is not yet well defined, but which still concern millions of individuals around the world. If diarrhea, nausea, appetite disturbances, skin itching, erythema, hair loss, kidney problems, diabetes, endocrinological imbalances seem to affect lower numbers of people, their persistence or appearance (because in fact there are also subjects who see appear ex novo the signs of post-Covid weeks or months after infection, and are not always problems directly related to those manifested in the acute phase of the disease) is not of lesser impact in the life of those who suffer from it. Women seem more at risk of persistent symptoms compared to men, but for all there is good news: in most cases the problems are attenuated, until they disappear, within 6 months.

The signs in the psyche

Ample space, then, is dedicated to the psyche, neurological signs, sleep disorders and the widespread “Mental fog”, which manifests itself with problems in maintaining attention, remembering, concentrating. Without forgetting the psychiatric complications: depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, cognitive disorders, fatigue, obsessive-compulsive disorder, which often appear worsened in those who already suffer from them and much more frequent in the rest of the population. The pandemic has had a devastating effect on mental health, quarantines and social distancing have had enormous negative repercussions. For everyone, from the elderly to children, passing through those adolescents who seem to pay a very high price with a worrying growth in cases of anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, mood disorders. A chapter of its own is reserved for post-Covid children, as well as for the return to sporting activity, whether competitive or not, which can give many benefits to patients.

May 26, 2022 (change May 26, 2022 | 07:50 am)

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