A staggering number of more than 200 symptoms are still experienced by post-Covid patients despite recovery from the initial illness.
Nearly one in ten of those who have recovered still have lingering symptoms such as dizziness, diarrhoea, shortness of breath, fatigue and debilitating brain fog, which can linger for months or even years, according to the BBC.
A new imaging technique revealed the source of long-term Covid in the lungs, ScienceAlert reported.
“Frustratingly, even tall COVID patients who describe breathing-related problems show normal results on standard clinical breathing tests,” said respirologist Michael Nicholson of St. Joseph’s Health Care London, adding that the findings allowed them to determine the presence of physiological impact on [patient] lungs that correlated with their symptoms.
In addition, the scans showed the extensive damage that COVID-19 can cause to a human’s respiratory organs.
Extensive damage to the lungs
According to the study published in Radiology, abnormal gas transfer and pulmonary vascular density have been reported in patients with post-acute COVID-19 syndrome (PACS).
Regardless of whether it was caused by the virus itself or by the body’s response, some mechanism has effectively reduced the function of patients’ pulmonary vessels, affecting many of the smallest where essential gas exchange occurs.
To observe activity in these tiny airways and blood vessels in real time, the researchers, led by Western University physicist Alexander Matheson, instructed 40 volunteers — 34 with post-acute COVID-19 syndrome and 6 without — to use a polarized xenon. respirable gas isotope that resonates at a characteristic frequency under MRI.
To summarize their findings, even a non-serious infection in symptomatic post-COVID patients shows an abnormality in the exchange of oxygen across the alveolar membrane to the red blood cells, said medical biophysicist Grace Parraga of Western University.
Apparently, the transition from oxygen to red blood cells was suppressed in these symptomatic patients who had had COVID-19, compared to healthy volunteers, she added.
In addition, the vascular damage is reflected by the MRI scan, suggesting that flu symptoms as common symptoms of COVID-19 are not only another respiratory disease, but also a vascular disease.
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Potential mechanisms for the disrupted gas exchange
The team illustrated several possible mechanisms for the change in gas exchange they witnessed, showing that some blood vessels can lose flexibility, reducing the amount of blood available, altering the blood pattern, diverting blood away from the gas exchange regions or blocking the blood from getting there. to come .
However, the team is concerned that their sample size may not be sufficient to provide a more convincing generalization, but is open to further research.
Regardless of the mechanism behind it, however, it’s clear to them that the virus disrupts and messes with circulation, targeting the endothelial cells, which line the walls of our blood vessels and heart.
In fact, any COVID-19 infection risks vascular damage, from clotting problems to heart disease.
“I was on oxygen for almost two months after COVID, and it took me almost three months to get to a place where I could go for a walk without gasping for breath,” said one of the study participants, noting that the virus can have very serious long-term consequences, which are not trivial.
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