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The Complex Effects of Long COVID

Long COVID has emerged as a perplexing aftermath of the initial COVID-19 infection, triggering an array of persistent symptoms that linger long after the virus has left the body.

This condition, also known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), presents a labyrinth of challenges, from understanding its symptoms to finding effective treatments.

In this article, we explore the different effects of Long COVID and how it can impact day-to-day life. If the expenses associated with Long COVID are creating a financial burden on you or someone you care about, turn to Help Hope Live for trusted medical fundraising.

What Causes Long COVID?

The exact cause of Long COVID remains elusive. Several theories have been proposed, but a definitive understanding is still evolving within the scientific community.

Some potential contributing factors to the persistence of symptoms in Long COVID include:

  1. Persistent viral presence
  2. Immune system dysregulation
  3. Complications from organ damage

A study by Penn Medicine found that patients with Long COVID had SARS-CoV-2 in their stool long after an acute COVID-19 infection, suggesting that some of the virus remains in the GI tract. This interference can reduce the absorption of tryptophan, a building block for serotonin.

What Makes Long COVID So Complex?

Long COVID encompasses a spectrum of symptoms that persist for weeks or months beyond the acute phase of the initial illness. These symptoms of Long COVID are diverse, ranging from persistent fatigue and brain fog to respiratory issues that severely impact an individual’s quality of life.

Understanding the Affected Demographics and Severity

Long COVID impacts diverse demographics, but certain groups, such as older adults and individuals with pre-existing conditions, seem more susceptible.

Research indicates a correlation between the severity of the initial infection and the likelihood of developing Long COVID. Those with severe acute COVID-19 are more prone to experiencing lingering symptoms.

How Common Is Long COVID?

The CDC estimates the percentage of people that get Long COVID ranges from 7.5% to 41%. It is complex to determine how common Long COVID is due to factors including varied symptoms, individual health backgrounds, and ongoing research seeking a clearer understanding of this condition.

Are You Still Contagious with Long COVID?

No, Long COVID is not contagious active viral replication. The risk of transmitting the virus to others typically diminishes after the acute phase of the illness ends, though some effects of Long COVID, like ongoing fatigue or respiratory issues, might persist long after the active infection.

Do Vaccines Prevent Long COVID?

Vaccines do not prevent you from developing Long COVID, but vaccines can lessen a person’s risk of getting Long COVID.

While there are no random controlled trials published as of December 2023, global studies found that patients who reported having a COVID vaccination before infection showed significantly reduced odds of developing Long COVID symptoms.

Diagnostic Challenges and Daily Life Impact with Long COVID

While some theories suggest an aberrant immune response triggering prolonged symptoms, others explore the potential of lingering viral particles causing extended illness.

The effects of Long COVID present a significant challenge as symptoms often overlap with other conditions, making it difficult to accurately diagnose. Individuals living with persistent symptoms of Long COVID—like brain fog, shortness of breath, and fatigue—often face daily life disruptions ranging from physical limitations to a profound toll on mental health.

The National Institutes of Health funded a large study that identified over 200 symptoms associated with Long COVID.

Exploring Treatment Avenues and Self-Management

The pursuit of effective treatments for Long COVID is ongoing. Medical interventions, including therapies to address specific symptoms, are still being explored as there are no specific treatments for Long COVID yet.

Is There a Cure for Long COVID?

Currently, there is no cure for Long COVID, so healthcare professionals are focused on treating the persisting symptoms associated with the condition.

Most patients pursue a combination of respiratory therapies and medication, as well as self-management strategies, from lifestyle adjustments to coping mechanisms to help alleviate the impact of long COVID symptoms.

How Does Long COVID Affect the Lungs?

Severe Long COVID cases can lead to lasting lung damage like scarring, while even mild cases might result in persistent shortness of breath, causing difficulty during light activity.

For some patients, lung recovery is feasible and gradual, often taking months for function to reach pre-COVID levels.

For other patients, lung damage related to long COVID may necessitate a single or double lung transplant.

Finding Support for the Road Ahead

While dealing with the complex mental and physical symptoms of Long COVID, patients and their families may have to contend with extensive out-of-pocket medical costs associated with the diagnosis.

For diverse Long COVID costs such as medical travel, medications, physical therapy, caregiving, and even lung transplants, Help Hope Live is your trusted medical fundraising resource.

Apply today and you’ll be paired with a Client Services Coordinator who can offer you one-on-one fundraising help.

We’ll verify your medical and financial need for complete donor confidence and administer all funds raised so you get maximum protection for your state-based benefits while your donors make tax-deductible donations in your honor.

Written by Emily Progin