Study shows more symptoms long after COVID patients 'recover'

A new syndrome arising from COVID-19 has been added to the list of ‘long COVID’ symptoms. 

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) makes patients dizzy and causes palpitations, headaches, fatigue and blurred vision. 

When someone with POTS stands up after lying down, their heart rate increases, leading to shortness of breath, lack of focus and chest pain. Patients find it difficult to stand or do their usual activities.

A new study from Lund University conceded that much remains unknown about the causes of POTS-like symptoms in post-COVID-19 patients or how long those symptoms last.

“But chronic symptoms are expected in a subset of patients based on this initial clinical experience,” lead author Dr Madeleine Johansson told The New Daily.

Post-COVID patients have previously reported a range of lingering symptoms including loss of taste, blood clots, chronic fatigue, joint soreness, and mental confusion. These persisting symptoms have been labelled ‘long COVID’. Though there’s no official definition, having symptoms 28 days after infection is the widely accepted standard.

Many of those reporting long-term effects had experienced only mild COVID infections.

ABC’s 7.30 program reported that researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) in Melbourne found a third of the 77 COVID patients experienced long COVID. 

A study published in The Lancet medical journal found 76 per cent of 1733 patients surveyed had at least one symptom six months later.

ABC News America estimates 10 to 30 per cent of COVID patients “have enduring symptoms even after their infection has cleared”.

“If even a small proportion of the vast numbers of people infected with COVID-19 develop long COVID syndrome, it represents a significant public health concern,” Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote in January.  

Read more: COVID jab available to over-70s

WEHI project leader Vanessa Bryant said the most common symptoms of long COVID were lethargy, loss of smell and taste and shortness of breath.

“So, from our study, we found that 34 per cent of participants, of volunteers who have recovered from COVID, are actually still experiencing symptoms of long COVID in our study. So that’s fairly significant. It’s in line with global reports. But as we said, it was a surprise to us when we first started,” she said.

“Even asymptomatic people who had relatively mild disease are also experiencing long COVID,” she told 7.30

Long COVID is also afflicting people as young as 19. 

In the largest global study of ‘long-haulers’, more than half couldn’t work full time because of ongoing COVID-19 symptoms.

Connections have been drawn between long COVID and myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, which can be triggered by infectious diseases such as mononucleosis, Lyme disease and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Read more: Sleep maximises vaccine effectiveness

But new symptoms are being reported every day.

Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, told The Spectator that long COVID was a ticking time bomb.

“The long-haulers could turn out to be a bigger public health problem than excess deaths from COVID-19, which mainly affect the susceptible elderly,” he said.

Prof. Spector says 100,000 people could suffer symptoms in a year’s time, placing the British health system under huge stress.

Timothy Hendrich, a viral immunologist at the University of California, says post-COVID symptoms tended to be “more common, severe and longer lasting than other viral illnesses, such as influenza”.

So, it is encouraging to hear a report from San Diego’s that a study from the University of California at San Diego is offering hope for COVID long haulers. 

The research suggests a heart drug called ivabradine can help alleviate the symptoms of POTS without significant side-effects. 

The best current theory is that POTS occurs after significant infections because antibodies produced in response to the infections “go haywire”, attacking the systems of the body that regulate blood pressure and heart rate.

The UCSD study found ivabradine reduced the spiking heart rate of patients and improved their quality of life within one month.

Are you as concerned by COVID given that vaccinations are underway? Do you know people who are suffering long COVID symptoms?

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Written by Will Brodie