(QCOSTARICA) Achieving the status of “recovered” from COVID-19 does not always mean that the person will be able to immediately return to their normal life.
Many times, winning the battle against the new coronavirus leaves sequelas that become other struggles to fight.
The aftermath of COVID-19 becomes an extra nightmare for some patients, after leaving the medical center or in other cases even for those who experienced the disease at home.
Specialists from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) who live day by day the situations suffered by patients say that the consequences of the COVID-19 recovered can range from physical to emotional and social, wildly varying severity in people.
Dr. Marco Vinicio Boza, an intensivist doctor of the CCSS, explained that the physical sequelae depend on each person.
“Depending on what you’ve had in the ICU, you can expect different types of complications. Generally, the reason for admission to an ICU is an inflammatory response syndrome with severe inflammatory processes in different organs of the body,” commented the expert.
The physical sequelae can be from the brain, respiratory, cardiac, digestive, muscular, skin and many more.
The Caja is close to publishing a guideline to apply to patients who suffer sequelae.
Dr. Manuel Wong, a physiotherapy specialist who worked on the protocol for the care of patients with sequelae of COVID-19, stated that the intention is to classify patients into those with high, moderate and low rehabilitation needs.
“There are patients who have had strokes, or have a nerve problem, it begins with a burning in the arms, in the feet. There is another group of patients who suffer from heart problems, suffer from arrhythmia or myocarditis, but they are the few. In addition, there are those who have lung problems and one of the most common problems is pulmonary fibrosis,” explained Wong.
However, the consequences at the level of the respiratory system are presented as the most important, as it is the system most affected potentially.
“The person can have fatigue, even severe physical damage to their lungs with significant respiratory limitation for the rest of their life. Some will require oxygen for the rest of their lives,” said Boza.
Among the most common consequences of this disease are fatigue and weakness due to loss of muscle mass.
Wong specified that many times being in a bed for a long time (about a month) can produce contractures, permanent tightening of tissues that include muscles, tendons, ligaments, or skin. It makes it hard or impossible to move the nearby joints.
“There are people who were never hospitalized and we see them for that…. Because they can’t stand walking, everything hurts, they don’t have strength, they tire easily. In some cases it has been called post-viral chronic fatigue syndrome,” he explained.
Along with the physical problems, emotional consequences can occur in the person once they leave the medical center or leave confinement after suffering the coronavirus.
Being hospitalized or isolated, according to Boza, “could sometimes have post-traumatic stress syndrome.”
Among the most common symptoms in these cases are anxiety and depression.
“Being in a room and seeing that all the patients at the same time are dying, that affects a lot and generates these sequelae,” said Dr. Wong.
Long after a Covid-19 infection, emotional effects can still smolder. As many as 1 in 3 patients recovering from Covid-19 could experience psychological after-effects of their infections.
Finally, there are social consequences, which are the rejection of the population to the person knowing that they had COVID-19.
“People are stigmatized, when they return to their neighborhood they are viewed with distrust, they are discriminated against, and that must be taken into account,” said Boza.
The recovery of these people who end up with sequelae, according to these experts, must be comprehensive and not immediate.
Many long-term COVID-19 effects still unknown
Much is still unknown about how COVID-19 will affect people over time.
It’s important to remember that most people who have COVID-19 recover quickly. But the potentially long-lasting problems from COVID-19 make it even more important to reduce the spread of the disease by following precautions such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and keeping hands clean.