A man experiencing depression, one of the long-term effects of COVID-19
Healthy Living

What Are the Long-Term Effects of COVID-19?

Feb 3 2021

Scientists are still currently learning about COVID-19. One thing they’re discovering is that the virus can leave some people with long-term effects. Right now, it’s estimated that between 10% and 20% of everyone who develops the virus has some sort of long-term symptoms. While it’s more common for older people and those with underlying medical issues, it can happen to younger healthier people too.

People who suffer from the virus and have long-term effects are called “long-haulers.” They may experience symptoms for weeks and months after the virus is gone. Studies are currently underway to learn more about persistent symptoms, including how long they last.

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

Fatigue and shortness of breath are two of the symptoms that long-haulers experience the most. Also common are joint pain, cough and chest pain.

Some other people have experienced:

  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fever that comes and goes
  • Headaches
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of energy/chronic fatigue
  • Loss of smell and taste
  • Memory loss
  • Muscle pain
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Rash
  • Sleep problems
  • Trouble concentrating

What about organ damage? 

You may have also heard that some people with COVID-19 experience organ damage. While this isn’t as common as the other symptoms, it is possible.

Unfortunately, many people assume COVID-19 only affects the lungs. Although that’s possible, it can actually affect almost any organ or system in your body.

This includes:

  • Lungs and respiratory system: When COVID-19 damages your lungs, it leaves scar tissue that could make it difficult for you to breathe for many years to come.
  • Heart and cardiovascular system: Some people have experienced inflammation of the heart. Even those with mild symptoms may see damage to the heart muscle that could lead to heart failure and disease in the future. Lasting effects may lead to blood clots and weakened blood vessels as well.
  • Brain: Some COVID-19 patients — including young people — have experienced strokes and seizures. They may also suffer from temporary paralysis. Depression, anxiety and mood swings are also possible.

COVID-19 can also have a long-lasting effect on your liver and kidneys. While some of the damage can be reversed, this is not always the case.

Why do some people experience long-term effects from COVID-19 and others don’t?

Scientists are still trying to figure out why some people have long-term effects. One idea is that the virus never really leaves the body. However, when those people are tested for COVID-19, their results are negative. Other doctors believe that it’s the result of the immune system working overtime.

How can I prevent long-term effects of COVID-19? 

Since no one knows for sure why COVID-19 leaves lasting effects in some people and not in others, there is no certain way to prevent them from happening. Therefore, the best thing you can do is to not get this virus in the first place.

Protect your health by being safe and smart when you’re around other people. Follow these tips:

  • Stay at least six feet apart from people who aren’t part of your household
  • Avoid anyone who is sick
  • Wear a face mask when you’re in public
  • Wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds, using warm water and soap
  • Avoid large crowds
  • Keep surfaces that you and others touch regularly clean
  • Consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to you

Stay updated on what Mercy Health is doing related to COVID-19.

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