Coronavirus Blackboard

Topic 17: Long-term Symptoms After COVID infection (Post-COVID Syndrome)

Question: Is Post-COVID Syndrome real?  

Answer: There have been reports of sickness lasting months after diagnosis of COVID-19 in some individuals. Sometimes the symptoms show up for the first time months after a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. The symptoms often involve muscle aches and persistent fatigue, but others have symptoms related to organs such as lungs, brain or heart. Doctors are still trying to figure how much of these symptoms are connected to COVID-19 and how best to help patients.

We know that some viral infections have been associated with a clinical condition called chronic fatigue syndrome. Doctors sometimes call this syndrome by its tongue-twisting other name, myalgic encephalomyelitis, and it can last months or years. Is this what some patients with COVID-19 are experiencing? The muscle aches, difficulty concentrating and fatigue that many describe sounds like it may be a similar syndrome. This is one of the questions that doctors are researchers are currently trying to unravel.

One thing is clear- there is a risk of missing other diagnosis if one rushes to assume that symptoms occuring months after the infection are due to COVID-19.  It is best to undergo comprehensive evaluation to make sure there is no obvious explanation for the symptoms. For example, someone with thyroid disorder may have very similar symptoms.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 affects many organs in ways that viral infections that came before it did not. The relatively common occurrence of large and small blood clots in COVID-19 patients is an example of the uniqueness of this infection. This mean we need to keep our minds open about the possibility of COVID-19 causing different long-term symptoms. While doctors and scientists work to sort this out, persons who have long-term symptoms after COVID-19 should seek care, and remember the symptoms may be from something else. Some people who experienced severe COVID-19 may simply need a longer recovery time to return to their pre-sickness health.


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