'A worsened quality of life.' What we know about the long term symptoms of COVID-19.

This post was originally published on July 31 and has been updated with additional information.

COVID-19 has been with us for less than a year. Whilst the immediate symptoms of the virus are well known—with a fever, cough and tiredness being amongst the most common—there's still a significant amount of information we don't know. 

Now, there is growing evidence that many patients will live with long-term symptoms of this disease, even after they've recovered.

These longer-term health impacts are starting to come to light, with previous patients reporting they are still experiencing symptoms weeks and months after supposedly recovering.

Actor Lena Dunham is among them.

Reluctant to wear a mask? The Quicky chatted to a doctor to bust some of the biggest misconceptions about them.

The Girls creator/writer/star shared with her social media followers on Saturday that she was diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-March and endured 21 days of illness. 

But despite being cleared of the virus a month later, Dunham said she has been living with swollen hands and feet, migraines and crippling fatigue ever since.

"The doctor determined I was suffering from clinical adrenal insufficiency—my pituitary gland had almost entirely ceased to function—as well as 'status migrainosis' (in human terms, a migraine that just won’t stop.)," she wrote.

"My arthritis flared and required an immune-modulator drug that is hard on my body. And there are weirder symptoms that I’ll keep to myself."


Dunham already lived with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an inherited condition that weakens connective tissues and causes joint pain, among other symptoms. But the 34-year-old said that even as a chronically ill person, she has "never felt this way".

"To be clear, I did NOT have these particular issues before I got sick with this virus," she added, "and doctors don't yet know enough about COVID-19 to be able to tell me why exactly my body responded this way or what my recovery will look like."

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My Covid Story

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Plenty of others who've lived with the virus have shared the lasting toll it appears have taken on their bodies.


So, what exactly do we know about the long-term symptoms of COVID-19?

'A worsened quality of life'

Earlier this month, a peer-reviewed study was published that focuses on the symptoms that persist in coronavirus patients after recovery. 

The study assessed 143 people in Rome, 60 days after their first COVID-19 symptom. It found that nearly 90 per cent of patients reported having at least one persistent symptom after recovery. Over half reported three or more persistent symptoms. 

This includes 53 per cent of people who reported persistent fatigue, 43 per cent who still experienced breathlessness and 21 per cent who still suffered from chest pain. 

The study also found a worsened quality of life was experienced by 44 per cent of recovered patients. 

Watch: Celebrities are getting creative in isolation. Post continues below. 

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A recent German study examined the long-term impacts of coronavirus on the heart specifically. 

The researchers examined the cardiac MRIs of 100 recovered coronavirus patients, with an average age of 49, and compared them with the MRIs of people of the same age bracket who were not infected with coronavirus. 

The study found that 78 patients (over three quarters) showed heart damage two months after the diagnosis, and 60 of those patients had inflammation, called myocarditis.

Dr. Valentina Puntmann, co-author of the study, told UPI about the results: "The patients and ourselves were both surprised by the intensity and prevalence of these findings, and that they were still very pronounced even though the original illness had been by then already a few weeks away.

"While we do not yet have the direct evidence for [long-term] consequences yet, such as the development of heart failure, which can be directly attributed to COVID-19, it is quite possible that in a few years this burden will be enormous based on what we know from other viral conditions."

Listen: How does COVID-19 affect your body in the long term? Post continues below.

A personal battle

Paul Garner is an infectious disease specialist at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK. In March, he was infected with COVID-19.

He explained the long-term impacts he experienced for a blog on the British Medical Journal.


"For almost seven weeks I have been through a roller coaster of ill health, extreme emotions, and utter exhaustion. Although not hospitalised, it has been frightening and long. The illness ebbs and flows, but never goes away," he said in May this year. 

In June, he wrote another blog, saying the symptoms had only continued to persist some 14 weeks after his coronavirus diagnosis. 

"I am unable to be out of bed for more than three hours at a stretch, my arms and legs are permanently fizzing as if injected with Szechuan peppercorns, I have ringing in the ears, intermittent brain fog, palpitations, and dramatic mood swings," the infectious disease specialist said. "Now, at week 14, my symptoms have progressed."

Evidently, we're still in the early stages of understanding exactly what the impacts of this virus are.

For that reason, and many more, Lena Dunham urged people to maintain vigilance, social distancing and hygiene.

"When you take the appropriate measures to protect yourself and your neighbours, you save them a world of pain," she wrote on social media.

"You save them a journey that nobody deserves to take, with a million outcomes we don’t yet understand, and a million people with varying resources and varying levels of support who are not ready for this tidal wave to take them. It is critical we are all sensible and compassionate at this time...because, there is truly no other choice."

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