Data shows that one in five patients experience long COVID after infection

Doctor looking at an X-Ray of a patient with long COVID
Doctor looking at an X-Ray of a patient with long COVID. Photo credit Getty Images

New data has shown that one in five Americans who have contracted COVID-19 at some point experience the effects of long COVID.

The data comes from Mayo Clinic researchers, and this week, News Talk 830 WCCO's Susie Jones will be exploring the impact that long COVID has on those still experiencing symptoms months after testing positive for the virus.

When it comes to defining long COVID, medical experts are still working through it, sharing that people don't all experience it the same way.

"It seems like every day we are learning about new symptoms that can come with this condition," Mayo Clinic Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn said.

Elise De Pew is one of the millions of Americans still suffering the effects of COVID-19, which she first contracted in December of 2020.

Before the pandemic, she would go to the gym several times a week and lived a somewhat normal life, but that has all changed.

"Anytime I would exert myself physically, I would basically not be able to get out of bed the next day; I would be so tired," De Pew said. "Or I would come down with a headache and a cold and sore throat and stuff, over and over."

De Pew went to her doctor but didn't find relief, so she turned to a natural path which started her on the road to healing. Unfortunately, not all those who suffer come to that end.

Vanichkachorn studied the first 100 patients presenting long-term effects from a COVID-19 infection. While there isn't a clear answer as to why some experience long COVID, he says there is research pointing to possible answers.

The doctor shared that research shows the body's immune system goes into overdrive when COVID-19 hits and can damage nerves and cause inflammation.

When it comes to those who experience long COVID, Vanichkachorn said he would classify it as such if they have had symptoms more than three months out from their infection and the symptoms have lasted at least two months.

But still, long COVID can happen in anyone, even those who didn't have symptoms when they were infected.

"You can have an asymptomatic infection and get long COVID," Vanichkachorn said. "You can have an acute infection that seems to go away and get better for a short period of time, and then symptoms come back. That would also count as potentially long covid."

Vanichkachorn says women suffer more than men, and one in five will come down with long-term symptoms, which include fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle aches, low blood pressure, short-term memory loss, headaches, and loss of taste or smell.

Two years into this pandemic, Vanichkachorn says there are still a lot of unknowns. No test shows whether you have long COVID or not. Still, researchers are making headway in better understanding long haul COVID 19 and treating it with rehabilitation services, including occupational and physical therapy.

See all parts of WCCO's Five-Part Series on Long-Haul COVID here.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images