What Is Long COVID?

What Is Long COVID

By the close of February 2022, almost 60% of the U.S. population had developed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, indicating prior infection with COVID-19. For individuals who recover, SARS-CoV-2 presents significant enduring physical and mental challenges. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 15% of all U.S. adults continue to experience COVID-19 symptoms lasting three months or more after their initial infection.

This phenomenon, known as “long COVID,” affects individuals with varying degrees of illness severity, and its underlying causes and risk factors remain under investigation by the medical community.

In this article, we at TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track aim to provide our patients and readers with comprehensive information about long COVID.

Definition of Long COVID

The term “long COVID” originated within the patient community. Archaeologist Elisa Perego introduced it as a Twitter hashtag to describe her personal experience with the virus. The moniker “long haulers” was coined by Amy Watson in June 2020, inspired by a trucker hat she was wearing during her initial COVID-19 test. Subsequently, numerous organizations have devised their own definitions and terminology for this condition.

Alternate Names of Long COVID:

Long COVID is also referred to by various names, including:

  • Post-COVID-19 condition
  • Chronic COVID-19
  • Long-haul COVID
  • Post-acute COVID-19
  • Post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC)
  • Long-term effects of COVID

CDC Definition of Long COVID:

The CDC defines long COVID as an array of new or persistent symptoms that individuals may experience four or more weeks after their initial COVID-19 infection.

WHO Definition of Long COVID:

The World Health Organization (WHO) designates this condition as “post-COVID-19 condition” and defines it as an ailment usually diagnosed three months after the onset of COVID-19, lasting for at least two months, and not attributable to an alternative diagnosis. These symptoms may differ from those observed during the acute phase of COVID-19 or may persist from the initial illness.

Types of COVID-19 Long-Term Effects

COVID-19 impacts multiple bodily systems, including the respiratory system, brain, heart, blood, kidneys, and liver. Consequently, it can lead to a wide range of symptoms, with long COVID linked to more than 200 such symptoms. These symptoms may persist, change, or reoccur over time.

Symptoms of Long COVID

Symptoms of Long COVID

Long COVID symptoms span various categories, such as breathing and heart problems (e.g., breathlessness, chest pain), neurological symptoms (e.g., brain fog, headache), and digestive symptoms (e.g., abdominal pain, diarrhea). Complications may include inflammation of the heart muscle, lung function abnormalities, and more.

Causes of Long COVID

The reasons for the persistence of COVID-19 symptoms are still being explored. The virus may persist in a latent form in some individuals, while others may experience continued immune system overactivity. Certain pre-existing health conditions and previous Epstein-Barr infections may increase the risk of long COVID.

Diagnosis of Long COVID

Notably, many individuals with long COVID were never formally diagnosed with COVID-19 through lab testing. Consequently, it is essential to communicate concerns about persistent symptoms to healthcare providers, even without a previous positive test result. While there is no specific test for diagnosing long-term COVID-19 complications, blood tests may help identify related problems based on symptoms.

Treatment of Long COVID

Treatment for long COVID varies depending on the individual’s symptoms and their impact on daily life. Medications, including antidepressants, blood thinners, and pain relievers, may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms. Supportive care, such as breathing exercises, a healthy diet, exercise, mental health counseling, physical therapy, and rehabilitation, is also essential.

Prognosis

As research on long-term COVID-19 complications is ongoing, predicting when symptoms will resolve and the overall outlook for affected individuals remains challenging. While many people recover within weeks, those with persistent symptoms should consult healthcare providers for guidance on managing ongoing health issues.

Coping from Long COVID

Coping with the enduring effects of COVID-19 can be challenging. Support from family, friends, community organizations, online groups, and medical professionals is crucial. Additionally, nonprofit organizations like Survivor Corps and Body Politic offer valuable resources and support for individuals dealing with long COVID.

Summary

In summary, COVID-19 has left a lasting impact on a significant number of individuals, leading to persistent health issues. Long COVID presents itself in diverse forms, necessitating personalized treatment and ongoing support. We strongly encourage individuals to seek medical care at any of our 15+ convenient locations and make use of the available resources to effectively address the enduring consequences of this illness. Your well-being is our priority at TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track.

Our Sources

At TGH Urgent Care, we exclusively rely on reputable sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, to substantiate the information presented in our articles.

  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Long COVID or post-COVID conditions.
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). COVID-19 Rapid guideline: managing the long-term effects of COVID-19.
  3. World Health Organization. A clinical case definition of post COVID-19 condition by a Delphi consensus.
  4. Clarke KEN, Jones JM, Deng Y, et al. Seroprevalence of infection-induced SARS-CoV-2 antibodies – United States, September 2021-February 2022MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2022;71(17):606-608. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7117e3
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Long COVID.
  6. Body Politic COVID-19 Support Group. Report: What Does COVID-19 Recovery Actually Look Like?
  7. Rubin R. As Their Numbers Grow, COVID-19 “Long Haulers” Stump ExpertsJAMA. 2020 Sep 23. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.17709
  8. Callard F, Perego E. How and why patients made Long CovidSoc Sci Med. 2021;268:113426. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113426
  9. Davis HE, Assaf GS, McCorkell L, et al. Characterizing long COVID in an international cohort: 7 months of symptoms and their impactEClinicalMedicine. 2021;38:101019. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.101019
  10. Munblit D, O’Hara ME, Akrami A, Perego E, Olliaro P, Needham DM. Long COVID: aiming for a consensusLancet Respir Med. 2022;10(7):632-634. doi:10.1016/S2213-2600(22)00135-7
  11. World Health Organization. Post COVID-19 condition (Long COVID).
  12. Mokhtari T, Hassani F, Ghaffari N, Ebrahimi B, Yarahmadi A, Hassanzadeh G. COVID-19 and multiorgan failure: A narrative review on potential mechanismsJ Mol Histol. 2020 Oct 4:1-16. doi: 10.1007/s10735-020-09915-3
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Long-Term Effects of COVID-19.
  14. Su Y, Yuan D, Chen DG, et al. Multiple early factors anticipate post-acute COVID-19 sequelaeCell. 2022;185(5):881-895.e20. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2022.01.014
  15. Subramanian A, Nirantharakumar K, Hughes S, et al. Symptoms and risk factors for long COVID in non-hospitalized adultsNat Med. 2022;28(8):1706-1714. doi:10.1038/s41591-022-01909-w
  16. Greenhalgh T, Knight M, A’Court C, Buxton M, Husain L. Management of post-acute covid-19 in primary careBMJ. 2020 Aug 11;370:m3026. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m3026
  17. Marshall M. The lasting misery of coronavirus long-haulersNature. 2020 Sep;585(7825):339-341. doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-02598-6
  18. Bonilla H, Peluso MJ, Rodgers K, et al. Therapeutic trials for long COVID-19: A call to action from the interventions taskforce of the RECOVER initiativeFront Immunol. 2023;14:1129459. Published 2023 Mar 9. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2023.1129459
Disclaimer

The blogs presented by TGH Urgent Care in partnership with Fast Track are not a replacement for medical care and are exclusively intended for educational purposes. The content provided here should not be construed as medical guidance. If you are encountering any symptoms, we strongly recommend that you seek an appointment with a duly qualified medical practitioner at our nearest facility.

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