Does COVID-19 really cause complications? A study confirms it

As we enter the winter months, COVID-19 infections are skyrocketing, and a lot of people are experiencing complications they’re attributing to the virus. However, much of the evidence of complications has so far been anecdotal. This has led researchers to broaden their studies to formally nail down exactly which complications can be blamed on COVID-19…

Studies have shown that over the long term, COVID-19 can cause heart damage, chronic breathing problems, memory and concentration problems and chronic fatigue, among other conditions.

However, many of these studies reporting COVID-19 complications were either case series or involved small patient populations. As such, they really couldn’t establish a strong causal association with COVID-19, and they couldn’t provide risk estimates in different care settings.

That’s why a team of researchers recently set a goal of examining all possible COVID-19 complications to confirm those previously reported, as well as identify as-yet-unknown complications…

Conditions caused by COVID-19

According to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), a large study of COVID-19 patients in the United States confirms many previously stated complications of the disease.

Using anonymized outpatient and inpatient medical claims from a U.S. health database, the researchers identified 70,288 patients who had a health visit related to COVID-19 between March 1 and April 30, 2020. More than half the patients were admitted to the hospital, with 5 percent of those admitted to intensive care. Their median age was 65 years, and 55.8 percent of them were female.

When examining the claims, the team looked at all possible diagnostic codes and singled out those that increased in frequency after the onset of COVID-19. In doing so, they found the most common complications associated with COVID-19 and determined the overall absolute risk for the complications as well. They include:

  • Pneumonia; 27 percent risk
  • Respiratory failure; 22.6 percent risk
  • Kidney failure; 11.8 percent risk
  • Sepsis or systemic inflammation; 10.4 percent risk

When breaking down the absolute risk of these complications by age group, the risk of pneumonia was significantly higher for COVID-19 patients age 65 and older, at 43.1 percent.

In addition to these already-known complications, the researchers identified connections with a range of other lung and cardiovascular conditions, including collapsed lung (or pneumothorax), blood clotting disorders and heart inflammation (or myocarditis). However, the overall absolute risk of these complications was found to be relatively low.

Surprisingly, COVID-19 did not appear to be connected to a higher risk of stroke, contradicting the results of many other studies.

The authors of the CMAJ study note that it will help providers, patients and policymakers understand the likelihood of COVID-19 complications.

“Understanding the full range of associated conditions can aid in prognosis, guide treatment decisions and better inform patients as to their actual risks for the variety of COVID-19 complications reported in the literature and media,” says study co-author Dr. William Murk of Jacobs School of Medicine & Biological Sciences at the University at Buffalo.

The authors caution that the study only estimates the risk of newly diagnosed disease and does not estimate the risk of events where a preexisting condition may have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Dealing with COVID-19 complications

As we’ve noted in previous issues, the surest way to prevent COVID-19 complications is to avoid catching the virus…

Wash your hands frequently, wear a mask when you leave the house (preferably one made of silk) and keep at least 6 feet distance between you and other people. Also, keep your gatherings small and limit them to the family you live with or share a bubble with. And for now, it might be a good idea to skip eating at restaurants and working out in gyms, especially while COVID-19 infection is peaking.

If you’re unlucky enough to come down with COVID-19, these extra precautions could help:

  • Keep your lungs as clear as possible through steam baths and controlled coughing (here are tips to help your lungs cleanse themselves).
  • Make sure you’re taking vitamin D and getting plenty of antioxidants, both of which have been proven to help ease the impact of COVID-19 as well as protect against inflammation.
  • Make sure to protect your kidney health by staying hydrated, avoiding NSAIDs and adding a CoQ10 supplement to your diet. CoQ10 also helps keep your heart healthy and blood flowing, two more steps that can help protect you against the ravages of COVID-19.
  • Drink a cup of green tea daily to possibly deactivate the coronavirus. A North Carolina University study has discovered that at least five different chemicals in green tea act to block the “main” protease in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, preventing the virus from replicating.
  • For vaccine information, visit the CDC.

Sources:

Large US study confirms COVID-19 complications: lung, kidney and cardiovascular issues — EurekAlert

Diagnosis-wide analysis of COVID-19 complications: an exposure-crossover study — CMAJ

COVID-19 (coronavirus): Long-term effects — Mayo Clinic

The Cell in Your Body that May Cause Covid-19 Blood Clotting — Easy Health Options

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Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.