Post-COVID afflictions an ordeal for patients

Back-ache, joint pain, insomnia, and depression common among those who have recovered

Testing negative for COVID-19 does not signal the end of ordeal for some who continue to report persistent symptoms for weeks or months. Doctors are anticipating that more such instances will be reported over the next few weeks, considering the recent spike in cases.

A 30-year-old ASHA worker in Piravom who tested positive around mid-April is yet to recover entirely. A persistent cough and breathlessness meant that she had to get a chest X-ray done recently. “I have been trying to get back to work, but the fatigue makes me want to sit or lie down all the time,” she says.

Post-COVID clinics function at all primary health centres on Fridays, and daily at the Ernakulam General Hospital. Doctors at primary health centres say they have mostly been handling cases of fatigue and body aches.

Of those arriving at the Ernakulam General Hospital with post-COVID issues, most have pulmonary or cardiac problems, said Dr. Manoj G. Panicker, head of the general medicine department at the hospital. In most cases, hospital admissions are not necessary, but in some instances, patients are known to succumb to heart or lung issues they develop from COVID, he added. Considering the recent surge in COVID cases, more such cases are likely to crop up, Dr. Manoj said.

Dr. Sheela Mathew who heads the department of infectious diseases at the Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode, says back-ache, joint pain, insomnia, and depression are commonly seen. “Rarely, we are also seeing cases of thromboembolism or blood clotting. Impairment of kidney function is seen transiently, though such patients recover quickly,” she said.

Myocarditis, in cases where COVID has caused weakening of heart muscles, can lead to cardiac failure. In such cases, a negative COVID test does not matter. The impact will be seen when people return to routine life after COVID,” she added.

A 53-year-old in Ernakulam said he experienced persistent fatigue, nausea, and diarrhoea sporadically for around two months after he tested positive earlier this year. He ended up making two visits to private hospitals to manage post-COVID issues, where each time, he had to get tested for COVID again.

Some patients might require oxygen at home for up to a month, depending on the severity of damage to the lungs, but over time, they will recover completely, said Dr. Praveen Valsalan, pulmonologist at Aster Medcity. “The most common problem seen in the recovery period is secondary infections, like fungal or bacterial infections,” he added.

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