Doctors Warn of "Worrying" COVID Symptoms
Doctors and scientists are still learning about the long-term effects of COVID-19—and even with vaccinations and boosters available, symptoms can be lingering. "Long-term COVID—or post-acute COVID—affects a multitude of organ systems," says Devang Sanghavi, MD. "Starting from head to toe, it leaves behind multiple symptoms in a large proportion of patients who have recovered from COVID-19." Here are symptoms of COVID-19 that shouldn't be ignored. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Type 2 Diabetes
Long COVID has been linked with type 2 diabetes, both causing it or making it worse for those who already have diabetes. "There are a number of factors that seem to be associated in recent studies with long COVID, ranging from things like type two diabetes to viral load… as well as things like autoantibodies. We don't really understand very much, but we're learning literally on a week by week, month by month basis," says Dr. Anthony Fauci.
"One theory is that inflammation inside the body caused by coronavirus brings about insulin resistance, a feature of type 2 diabetes, which means the body isn't able to make proper use of the insulin it's producing," says Faye Riley, Ph.D.
Brain fog is one of the most common symptoms of both COVID-19 and long COVID.
"The defining feature that a lot of patients have been mentioning is the inability to fully concentrate," says Dr. Monique White-Dominguez, a physician with Sameday Health in Los Angeles. "The short-term memory seems to be affected most, the ability to recall what I just did 35 minutes ago. It could be someone who was really healthy, a successful executive in their late 20s, who thinks, 'Oh shoot, I forgot that meeting. I even had eight different reminders on my phone, and I still couldn't remember that.'"
Chest pain is a familiar symptom of long COVID, as is fatigue. "Severe fatigue is common after infection with the coronavirus, just as it is after any serious illness. Many people experience shortness of breath, chest pain or palpitations," says cardiologist Wendy Susan Post, M.D., M.S. "Any of these problems could be related to the heart, but they could also be due to other factors, including the aftermath of being very ill, prolonged inactivity and spending weeks convalescing in bed. You want to consult a doctor if any of your symptoms are severe, especially shortness of breath."
Depression and Anxiety
Mental health issues have unsurprisingly been on the rise since the start of the pandemic, thanks to factors such as loneliness and long-term isolation. "People are feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, anxious, helpless, frustrated, stressed and exhausted," says Lisa MacLean, MD, a psychiatrist at Henry Ford Health System. "With the worsening of—and gradual decline in mental health—we are also seeing anger, depression, insomnia and increased substance abuse as well as a reported increase in isolation and loneliness."
Breakthrough COVID Infections
Even fully vaccinated people can still get COVID-19, which is why it's important to remain cautious about virus variants and be aware of what cases are like in your community. "It is not uncommon to see breakthrough infections," says Dr. Sanghavi. "A factor that leads to that is the time from the initial vaccination. As more time passes, the immunity against infection wanes and the antibodies in a person's body are low. Then, obviously, these vaccines were created for a different strain, so the efficacy of the vaccine itself may not be as good for Omicron as compared to say Delta as compared to Alpha, which was what it was originally designed for."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.