As expected, the major preoccupation on everyone’s mind is avoiding getting infected with the coronavirus disease. There are many reasons for this, and this ranges from the absence of a cure/vaccine to the difficulties encountered while getting treated, due to congested hospitals and limited healthcare resources.
The most important fear is staying ill for weeks and suffering from the various symptoms which include fevers, respiratory difficulty, and a lot of others that keep popping up as various cases show up.
The most worrisome among these are the speculations that COVID-19 leads to lung damage both in the short term, and even long after recovery- if the patient recovers. How true are these insinuations? Well, here’s what we know:
COVID-19 Truly Causes Lung Damage: There are various ways in which the Coronavirus causes damage to the lung. These include:
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS): Just as the name implies, ARDS is majorly associated with difficulty in breathing. Excess liquid droplets escape from the blood vessels into the lungs and accumulate so much that they can restrict the movement of air through the lungs and make it hard to breathe.
Perhaps you have heard a lot about ventilators as medical equipment used in treating COVID-19 patients? This condition is responsible for it. Ventilators are used in providing the required pressure for moving oxygen through the body when the lungs are too weakened by ARDS to get the job done.
Pneumonia: If you’ve come across accounts of patients who survived COVID-19, a common experience is a feeling of heaviness in the chest, this is one of the symptoms of pneumonia. The lungs become heavy and filled up with fluid, causing blockages along the paths where air regularly passes during breathing. Patients find it difficult to breathe and feel pain in the chest. Pneumonia symptoms also include coughing.
Sepsis: In this case, the virus invades the bloodstream, overtaking it and spreading through it to destroy body tissue- especially at the lungs
- It’s worse when these conditions pre-exist: The three conditions named above do not only occur as a result of being infected by COVID-19. These respiratory conditions might already exist in patients and it can be disastrous for people who already have them to get infected by the Coronavirus.
- Scarring can occur, leading to long term damage: When treated properly, and in the absence of severe underlying conditions, patients can recover from lung damage caused by COVID-19. In some cases, however, the effects sometimes extend beyond recovery. Scarring occurs when the damaged lung tissues are replaced with thick and stiff scar tissue which leads to shortness of breath during normal physical activities.
- Asymptomatic people can get lung damage from COVID: Unfortunately, carriers of the Coronavirus disease who do not appear ‘sick’ but have gotten infected by the virus are also susceptible to lung damage. This means without coughing or having difficulty in breathing it is still possible to have the lungs getting slowly damaged by COVID-19. Scary right?
While researchers keep learning more on the effects of COVID-19 on the lungs, the best we can do for now is abide by all precautions and stay safe.