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Doctors seek to understand long COVID

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(NewsNation) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 1 in 5 COVID patients have developed long COVID, a collection of symptoms that can linger months or years after the initial illness.

Dr. Mario Castro, with the Kansas University Medical Center, told NewsNation new data could help researchers and physicians understand long COVID.

“We now also know from this recent study, that it results in significant disability, much higher rates of disability were seen in the workplace,” Castro said.

Symptoms of long COVID are wide-ranging. Some of the signs include fatigue, especially fatigue that worsens after activity, brain fog, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, sleep problems, digestive problems, joint pain, changes to taste or smell, depression and anxiety.

Castro said one of the most common symptoms he sees is fatigue, which can cause other issues as well.

“It starts to result in weakness and disability, and it results in your muscles actually just becoming weakened,” he said.

Castro said one treatment that doctors can offer is rehabilitation to help people regain muscle strength.

There’s no consensus on what causes long COVID, but one theory is that it is a result of the body’s immune system malfunctioning.

“This over-exuberant immune system that we have against this virus contributes to that degenerative kind of disease that occurs in the muscles and the nerves in our patients,” Castro said.

Physical rehabilitation can help long COVID patients address specific problems. But many long COVID sufferers still find they need to radically scale back on activities to avoid crashing, similar to those with other long-term illnesses like myalgic encephalomyelitis, more commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

One study found 75 percent of long COVID patients recovered after a year. However, others say it’s hard to know how long people may experience long COVID, since the virus is still new.

Lingering long COVID symptoms have also been linked to an increase in disability numbers and could be preventing as many as 4 million Americans from working.

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