Summary: Covid-19 has affected almost 100 million people, causing above million deaths. It also means that more than 98% of people have completely recovered, or as it may look. However, studies suggest that even after recovery, many continue to live with a long covid causing fatigue, chronic pain, brain fog, and many other issues. In addition, studies show that almost four million people are out of work or living with disability due to covid. Hence, the post covid recovery somehow demands special care including the chronic pain treatment.
Covid-19, by now, has affected most people in the US. Data shows that it has already affected almost 100 million people, causing more than 1 million deaths. But, of course, it also means that a considerable number of people have recovered from it.
But there is an issue, and it appears that not everyone has recovered completely. We are not discussing post-covid complications like severe lung or cardiovascular issues here. Those kinds of issues are readily identified and treated, though many may require prolonged treatment.
However, it appears that there are millions more living with long covid. Though these individuals appear close to normal, and even their diagnostic tests are close to normal, these people continue to feel unwell even months after a complete recovery.
Since these people do not show many changes in diagnostic tests, they are not able to get any medical help, and they are often declared as people who have recovered completely. Nonetheless, these people are unable to work or function normally. They continue to experience body aches, fatigue, poor concentration, and other minor health issues.
Doctors are now calling it a kind of long covid, as its signs and symptoms continue for a long time. It is emerging as one of the most significant threats these days. Just take an example of a study done by the Brookings Institution indicating that about four million people could not return to work after covid.
Therefore, these are people who can be regarded as disabled. However, these people face some severe issues, as no one recognizes them as disabled. Quite often, even people close to these individuals fail to understand their pain and health issues.
Understanding Long Covid
It seems that even after making a complete recovery, people continue to experience chronic pain and many health issues weeks and months after the infection. Doctors find it quite challenging to explain the cause of this phenomenon. Moreover, symptoms may even go away and then come back again in many instances.
No two people with long covid have similar signs and symptoms, and every one has distinct kinds of symptoms. For some, it may be more about fatigue; for others, it may be headaches.
CDC has already come up with some of the common signs of long covid:
- General symptoms – like fatigue, low concentration, frequent fever. A person may feel tired even after a small exertion.
- Cardio-respiratory symptoms – like shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, and palpitations.
- Neurological issues – brain fog, headaches, sleep disturbances, tingling sensation in hands and feet, mood disorders like depression or anxiety, and changes in smell and taste.
- Digestive issues – like frequent diarrhea and stomach pains.
- Other symptoms – like joint pains, rashes, and hormonal changes.
As one can see, that list is quite long. Moreover, the severity of these symptoms varies. Not all symptoms are present in everyone living with long covid. Most will have few of the symptoms.
As one can see, many of the above signs are symptoms are quite vague, which creates a diagnostic challenge. Clinical evaluations like imaging, x-ray, and blood tests, fail to show any significant changes, and thus even doctors feel helpless. Of course, doctors may prescribe drugs, but treatment often fails to help. It means that many people are forced to live with these health issues for a long, with a significant disability.
By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP