For some, COVID’s symptoms don’t go away
Geraghty is certainly one of hundreds of thousands who’ve Long COVID—defined as COVID symptoms lasting for greater than three months after infection. Long COVID symptoms can include difficulty respiratory or shortness of breath, fatigue, brain fog, cough, stomach pain, headache, heart palpitations, joint or muscle pain, pins-and-needles feeling, diarrhea, sleep problems, insomnia, lightheadedness, rash, mood changes, and alter in smell or taste. The virus can also be able to damaging blood vessels and causing cardiomyopathy and muscle pain.
Researchers estimate as many as one-in-three people infected with COVID will go on to develop Long COVID. Women usually tend to develop this syndrome.
Katelyn Jetelina, PhD, MPH, a knowledge scientist and epidemiologist who founded and authors Your Local Epidemiologist, has focused her work on COVID since March 2020. “We’ve learned rather a lot,” she says. “We’ve learned what is going on [in the body] and discovered [Long COVID] happening pretty early on amongst essentially the most severe cases, those hospitalized. We’ve began discovering what pathways are causing Long COVID and what’s the biological plausibility of this—and, more recently, how variants and vaccinations change with Long COVID.”
She says recent studies show promising results that when you are infected with the Omicron variant, you may have a lower likelihood of developing Long COVID than if you may have the Delta strain. “The chance doesn’t go to zero, nevertheless it does decrease, same with vaccinations,” Jetelina explains. Reinfections even have a correlation with severity of long-term effects.
Gary Kaplan, DO, the founder and medical director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in Virginia and a clinical associate professor at Georgetown University, has worked in pain management for greater than 30 years. Now, he’s begun to treat patients with Long COVID at his center.
“It’s a dysfunction of the immune system,” he says. He notes that what is going on with Long COVID is just not a recent phenomenon. COVID hampers the immune system and causes it to misfire, similarly to pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome/pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders related to streptococcal infections (PANS/PANDAS), Lyme disease, mold exposure, and other viruses and infections.
“All of these items can potentially trip up the immune system to begin attacking the central nervous system, leading to pain and fatigue,” Kaplan says. “And so actually COVID would do the identical; that wasn’t in the least surprising.”
He says there may be an autoimmune and layering component to Long COVID. “You will have things occurring within the background that you just didn’t understand, and also you were putting up with a low-grade form of ‘blah.’ Then this virus comes along, and things that were smoldering previously have became a full-fledged forest fire,” he says. “And that forest fire is in your brain, so now what’s happening is generalized pain, generalized fatigue, concentration issues, sensitivity to light and sound.”
Geraghty says that before she was infected with COVID, she had over 30 medical conditions involving chronic pain, in addition to myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS. She says since having COVID, her ME/CFS has been much worse.
“Three months in and with the severity of the symptoms, I started to query if COVID was settling into my body as a chronic illness,” she says.
Geraghty recommends that those that change into unwell with COVID engage in radical rest—and her advice holds true for Long COVID as well. “Pacing is amazingly essential. This is amazingly difficult to do when you furthermore may should work, but many individuals like myself cannot afford to not work,” she says.
Along with her low energy and fatigue, Geraghty’s social life, work, and even ability to search out additional medical treatments have all suffered.