MONDAY, Jan. 11, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Even people with mild cases of COVID-19 may commonly feel run down and unwell months later, a new study suggests.
The study, of patients at one Irish medical center, found that 62% said they had not returned to “full health” when they had a follow-up appointment a few months after their COVID-19 diagnosis. Nearly half complained of ongoing fatigue.
Surprisingly, the severity of patients’ initial COVID-19 infections were not a factor: People who’d managed at home were as likely to feel unwell as those who’d been hospitalized.
A year into the global pandemic, the problem of “long-haul” COVID-19 is getting increasing attention.
Some recent studies estimate that 10% of COVID-19 patients become long haulers, complaining of stubborn problems like fatigue, insomnia, shortness of breath and “brain fog” (problems with memory, focus and other mental skills).
Dr. Luis Ostrosky, a professor of infectious diseases at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston, is among the doctors seeing long haulers.
“The number-one complaint we see is fatigue,” he said, “and number-two is brain fog.”
Ostrosky, who is also a fellow with the Infectious Diseases Society of America, was not involved in the new study.
He said most patients who come to his center’s “post-COVID” clinic were sick enough to be hospitalized for the infection.
“People who have a more severe, prolonged illness are more likely to have prolonged effects,” Ostrosky said. “But you do sometimes see it in patients with milder COVID-19, too.”
In the new study, a large proportion of patients with mild COVID-19 still felt unwell when they saw their doctor over two months later.
But, Ostrosky noted, that may be because patients with lingering symptoms are more likely to make a follow-up appointment.
Regardless, Ostrosky saw a basic message in the findings: “COVID-19 is not a dichotomy of you die, or you’re fine,” he said.
In fact, there can be lasting problems, Ostrosky said, particularly for severely ill people — including damage to the heart or kidneys, abnormal lung function and psychiatric symptoms, such as depression.