COVID-19 has to be one of the most perplexing viruses we’ve faced.
While most people recover within weeks, many are left with what’s been dubbed long-haul symptoms, lasting weeks to even months beyond their initial infection. Imagine surviving this awful virus, just to be left wondering if you’ll ever feel like your normal self again.
While numerous studies have discovered a link between everything from the number of symptoms you experience upon infection and your risk level to what your sex has to do with long-term symptoms, the exact cause of the condition, now known as long COVID syndrome, has been a mystery.
Until now. Evidence has been found that may have gotten to the root of long COVID syndrome, giving us insight into not only what causes it, but also the dangerous role blood clots play in symptoms that won’t go away.
What is long COVID syndrome?
The long-haul symptoms of COVID were first reported in a study out of China and indicated that as long as six months later, most Wuhan COVID survivors were still experienced problems with their health
The symptoms survivors most commonly reported living with following their infection included:
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble sleeping
For those who had been severely ill with COVID-19, the long-term symptoms could be worse, including impaired lung function. Abnormalities seen in chest X-rays were still visible six months after symptoms began. Damage to the tiny air sacs in the lungs can result in scar tissue that leads to long-term breathing problems.
Long-lasting damage to the heart muscle from a severe COVID-19 infection increases the risk of heart failure. And COVID’s effects on the brain may increase the risks for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
But perhaps the most troubling of all was the issue with blood clots.
Previous research by a team of scientists from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences had shown that patients with severe acute COVID-19 exhibited dangerous levels of clotting.
Then, a study out of the University of Michigan discovered why: the virus that causes Covid can actually trigger the production of clot-causing antibodies in your blood.
Because blood clots could contribute to the worst outcomes, multiple research institutes have focused on getting to the root of the relationship between the virus, the blood clots and, now, the long-haul symptoms…
Blood clots: Symptom and cause
Armed with everything they now knew about the virus and its affinity to produce blood-clotting antibodies, the RCSI researchers went back to the table with an idea…
If clots are so frequent and dangerous in COVID patients, maybe they were the cause behind the symptoms that just won’t end for long-haulers as well.
The team examined 50 patients with symptoms of Long COVID syndrome and found that clotting markers remained significantly elevated in the blood of those patients compared with healthy controls.
These clotting markers were also significantly elevated in patients who had required hospitalization with their initial COVID-19 infection.
The researchers also found that higher clotting was directly related to symptoms of Long COVID syndrome, including the reduced physical fitness and fatigue that are so common in these patients, even though their inflammation levels were back at ground zero.
“Because clotting markers were elevated while inflammation markers had returned to normal, our results suggest that the clotting system may be involved in the root cause of Long COVID syndrome,” said Dr. Helen Fogarty, the study’s lead author.
“Understanding the root cause of a disease is the first step toward developing effective treatments,” said Professor James O’Donnell, Director of the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, RCSI and Consultant Haematologist in the National Coagulation Centre in St James’s Hospital, Dublin.
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Six Months Later, Most Wuhan COVID Survivors Still Have Health Issues — U.S. News & World Report