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Some of the most unsettling news to come out of the coronavirus pandemic has been the fact that survivors can continue suffering for months. In fact, according to experts, COVID-19 can damage the heart and lungs, increasing the risk of long-term health problems.
Yet, if that weren’t bad enough, heart and lung issues aren’t the only thing you have to worry about sticking around even once you’ve supposedly recovered from the virus.
That’s because a brand new study has found radiological proof that COVID-19 can cause your own body to attack itself, leading to joint problems and pain that could stick with you for life.
Severe, long-lasting and bizarre symptoms
Just like with the flu, experiencing muscle soreness and aching joints is common for COVID-19 patients. It’s that feeling that you simply hurt all over, can’t seem to get comfortable, or even that a truck ran you down and then decided to back up and do it again.
Yet, for some people those symptoms aren’t just bad, they are extreme, become long-lasting or even be classified as bizarre — think “COVID toes.”
In fact, COVID-19 has been associated with flare-ups of rheumatoid arthritis and even autoimmune myositis (chronic inflammation that leads to weakening of the muscles over time caused by an immune system that has gone off the rails).
And for the first time, the craziness and pain these patients go through has been confirmed with radiological proof.
You can see what COVID has done to the body
The research by a team at Northwestern Medicine has, for the first time, confirmed and illustrated the causes of the muscle aches and extreme joint pain many COVID survivors say just won’t end.
Published in the journal Skeletal Radiology, the study looked at imaging (CTs, MRIs and ultrasounds) from past COVID patients who were still suffering weeks and months after everything else had gone back to normal.
Yet, the pain they were living with forced them to seek help.
“We’ve realized that the COVID virus can trigger the body to attack itself in different ways, which may lead to rheumatological issues that require lifelong management,” said author Dr. Swati Deshmukh.
So what did the imaging show?
Well, according to the team of scientist, radiological imaging showed that even after “recovering” from COVID-19, survivors could be left with:
- Swelling and inflammatory changes of the tissues
- Hematomas (collections of blood)
- Injured nerves that appeared bright or enlarged on the imaging
- Impaired blood flow or clots
- Or even devitalized tissue, what the rest of us know as gangrene
The team says that in some cases, it’s possible to identify people who have had COVID in the past and didn’t even know it based on the damage to their joints and tissue.
Because of this, they say that if you’ve had COVID (or even if you don’t know if you’ve had the virus) and are living with muscle or joint pain to see your doctor for evaluation and a possible referral to a rheumatologist for help with the long-term damage COVID-19 can cause.
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COVID-19 (coronavirus): Long-term effects — Mayo Clinic