A large number of COVID-19 patients in the United States, known as “long haulers,” have reported that the effects of the virus continue to linger months after being diagnosed.
Indiana University associate research professor, Natalie Lambert, analyzed at least 1,100 responses to a poll about post-COVID-19 symptoms in the Facebook group, Survivor Corps, which has 81,000-members. Over half of the patients reported at least one of six lingering symptoms, including fatigue and breathing problems, which appear to be the most common. The symptom list also includes the inability to exercise or be active and difficulty concentrating.
The lingering effects of coronavirus have also been noted around the world. An Italian study of 143 patients earlier this month in JAMA Network discovered that 87% of patients who had recovered from COVID-19 reported at least one lingering symptom, including fatigue and trouble breathing.
“We definitely see prolonged symptoms, sometimes a lingering cough and the most serious cases have long term chest pains and still feel they can’t breathe well,” said Dr. Maja Artandi, medical director of an outpatient COVID-19 clinic at Stanford University hospital. “It just causes all kinds of inflammation and takes a while to heal.”
In some instances, many patients experience a much more extensive range of lingering symptoms.
Karyn Bishof, of Boca Raton, Florida, says that on her 133rd day of experiencing symptoms, she still suffers from cough, chronic fatigue, memory issues, vision impairment, chest heaviness, drastic heart rate, and oxygen changes. She also still experiences sore throat, hair loss, heart palpitations, reflux, nausea, dizziness, vertigo, rapid hot flashes, joint paint, full-body itchiness, tremors, mild fever, dry mouth, excessive thirst, overheating with no fever, rash, sleep apnea, chest pain, and tinnitus.
Bishof, who is also in the Survivor Corps group, started her own poll within the group back in June to see how many “long haulers” there were. More than 1,500 people responded and said that they still had symptoms. More than half of them said that the symptoms lasted longer than three months. Even more troubling, more than 40% of respondents in her poll reported that the doctors treating them hadn’t listened to or believed them.
Lambert said that patients often face more skepticism with brain-related symptoms such as problems with memory, sleeping, irritability, or sadness. Doctors are dismissing or attributing many of these issues to stress.
At this time, the CDC only recognizes a fraction of the long term COVID-19 symptoms that patients in the Facebook group have reported.