UAE: Long Covid symptoms persist in many patients, doctors say

They say that these people might require long-term rehabilitation or care

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By SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Fri 24 Jun 2022, 2:59 PM

Last updated: Fri 24 Jun 2022, 10:21 PM

Two years after contracting Covid-19, Seema Mary Rajan, a nurse and ICU assistant at Medcare Hospital in Sharjah, is still dealing with post-covid complications.

During her battle with the virus, she had multiple symptoms including high fever, sore throat, cough, loss of smell and shortness of breath.

“In the ICU, we have been severely ill patients. So, I could have contracted the virus in the hospital,” she said.

Soon, she recovered from the virus but still couldn't breathe properly. “In the ICU, we would wear a surgical mask with an N-95 mask on top of it. Then, we would layer it with the PPE kit and a face shield. It was difficult for me to breathe and had to stress myself to inhale and exhale. But in the ICU, when we see people on life-support systems battling for life, our pains seem small,” she added.

After a month, she could finally breathe normally. However, she then started dealing with joint pain and swelling. “I consulted our doctors and they said it was a post-covid complication and will subside in some time. Even after two years, at times, I experience the same,” she said.

In April 2020, Dr Mahesh Kumar Arora tested positive for Covid-19.

A specialist in anaesthesia at Lifecare Hospital in Musaffah, Abu Dhabi, he was admitted to the same hospital. s my condition wasn’t improving, I was shifted to Burjeel Medical City for further management. I was put on ventilatory support, ECMO, and tracheostomized. For further treatment, I was shifted to Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi,” he said.

During the course of his illness, Dr Arora experienced bleeding in the lungs and stomach as well as meningitis. Once His condition was stable, “I was weaned off the ventilator and ECMO and faced other complications like neuropathy, myopathy, and calcification in multiple joints, making it difficult to sit, bend, and walk.’

“I have symptoms like generalized weakness, burning feet because of nerve damage, numbness, and pain in my legs. I am still being treated for these symptoms,” said Dr Arora.

Another pandemic

According to a survey conducted in the first two weeks of June, nearly 1 in 5 American adults who reported having Covid-19 in the past show symptoms of long Covid.

Overall, 1 in 13 adults in the United States have long Covid symptoms which last for three months or more after first contracting the disease. Patients did not have to seal with the.

Doctors say that they are seeing many cases of long Covid or persisting symptoms in some patients despite recovering from active Covid-19. “Around 20-30 per cent of patients who have recovered from Covid-19 complain of symptoms. Such symptoms are seen more in hospitalized patients,” said Dr Saheer Sainalabdeen, specialist pulmonologist, Medeor Hospital.


Why it happens

“We still do not fully know why patients experience these symptoms and why they are different in every individual. Once studies like the 'Recover Study' are complete, we will have a better picture,” Dr Sainalabdeen said. He added that once the virus leaves the body, the patient is prone to fatigue and tiredness.

Dr Karthikeyan Dakshinamurthy, a specialist in internal medicine at NMC Royal Hospital, DIP, suggested that an inflammation of nerves causes these symptoms to stay.

Common post-Covid symptoms

Health experts say that most patients recover well and do not experience any issues. "However, there are many people, who continue to experience various forms of difficulties, after many months of the infection,” said Dr Sandeep Pargi, specialist pulmonology, Aster Hospital, Mankhool.

Common symptoms reported to doctors include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches

Doctors say that these people might require long-term rehabilitation or care to get back to their normal lives with some of them requiring psychological support.

“It is only with newer studies that we learn the cause of this and the impact of Covid-19,” said Dr Pargi.

Medical experts say that post-Covid complications can continue between a month and a few years. “It depends on the complication induced by the disease and the condition of the patient. Some people who have developed critical complications such as organ damage or so might continue treatment for longer years also,” said Dr Pargi.

However, patients with long Covid can have symptoms that involve nearly every organ. “These include profound fatigue, shortness of breath with exertion, joint pain, chest pain, loss of smell or taste, diarrhoea, headache, brain fog, memory impairment, insomnia, anxiety, and dizziness, Dr Sainalabdeen said.

Healing from complications

Doctors say that normal symptoms such as muscle pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath subside once the patient regains strength. Those who develop medical conditions feel much better after undergoing treatment. “It depends on the condition of the patient and how long would it take to deal with the symptoms,” Dr Pargi said.

Doctors say that it is essential to follow a nutritious diet rich in vitamins and fibre. Patients can take supplements like vitamin C, magnesium, and vitamin D. After recovery from Covid-19, “it is better to avoid heavy cardiorespiratory exercises for at least six weeks after recovery. Avoid smoking, alcohol, and junk food. Improve lung function through exercises that will help increase oxygenation in the body. Patients can perform mental exercises like yoga as well,” said Dr Sainalabdeen.

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