Omicron raises concerns about COVID long term and its causes

Rebekah Hogan continues to suffer from severe brain fog, pain, and fatigue more than a year after her bout with COVID-19. She is unable to perform her job as a nurse or manage household chores.

Omicron raises concerns about COVID long term and its causes

She is now questioning her worth as both a mother and wife for a long COVID.

"Is it permanent?" "Is this the new normal?" Latham, 41, New York woman said. Her three children and her husband also show signs of the condition. "I want my whole life back."

According to some estimates, more than a third (33%) of COVID-19 victims will experience these lingering issues. Scientists are now racing to find the root cause of this debilitating condition, and offer treatments before long COVID cases explode.

Could this be an autoimmune disorder. This could explain why long COVID-19 is more common in women than it is in men. They are more susceptible to developing autoimmune diseases. Microclots could be responsible for symptoms such as memory loss and discolored toes. This could be possible, as abnormal blood clotting may occur in COVID-19.

These theories are being tested and new evidence is emerging that vaccination could reduce the risk of long-term COVID.

It is too early to predict whether those infected by the contagious Omicron variant will experience the strange constellation of symptoms. This condition is usually diagnosed several weeks after the initial illness. Some experts believe a wave long COVID is possible and recommend that doctors be ready for it.

The National Institutes of Health has $1 billion in Congress to fund a wide range of research into the condition. Clinics dedicated to treating and studying the condition are appearing all over the globe, often affiliated with universities such as University College London and Stanford University.

WHY IS IT COMMON?

A few key theories are driving momentum.

One is the persistence of the virus infection, or its remnants, beyond the initial illness. This causes inflammation that can lead to COVID.

Another possibility is that latent viruses, such as Epstein-Barr, which causes mononucleosis in the body, can be reactivated. Recent research in Cell identified Epstein-Barr as one of four risk factors. This includes pre-existing Type 2 Diabetes, certain antibodies and levels of coronavirusRNA in blood. These findings need to be confirmed by more research.

Another theory is that autoimmune reactions develop following acute COVID-19.

Viral infections trigger antibodies to fight the invading virus protein proteins. Sometimes, however, the antibodies can mistakenly attack healthy cells because they remain active in the aftermath of viral infections. This phenomenon is believed to be responsible for autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and lupus.

Justyna Fert-Bober, and Dr. Susan Cheng, were two of the researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Los Angeles that discovered that people with COVID-19, even those without symptoms, can have elevated "autoantibodies" for up to six months. These antibodies are also found in patients with autoimmune disorders.

One possibility is that tiny, unrelated clots may play a part in long-term COVID. Many COVID-19 sufferers have elevated levels of inflammatory chemicals that encourage abnormal clotting. This can cause blood clots in the body, which can cause strokes, heart attacks, and dangerous blockages in the legs or arms.

Resia Pretorius, a scientist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa discovered microclots in blood from patients suffering from COVID-19. Her blood plasma also contained elevated levels of proteins that hindered the normal breakdown of these microclots.

She believes that clotting abnormalities can persist in coronavirus-infected patients, reducing oxygen distribution to tissues and cells throughout the body. This could lead to many of the symptoms associated with long COVID.

It can hit almost anyone

There are many symptoms that can be used to diagnose the condition. The most common include fatigue and problems with memory and thought, loss of taste or smell, shortness and breathlessness, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

These symptoms can appear at the beginning of an infection, but may linger or recur for several months or longer. New symptoms may also develop and last for weeks, months, or even a year.

Scientists are unsure if the coronavirus triggers all symptoms. Many of these symptoms can also be caused by other diseases. Their research will hopefully provide definitive answers, researchers hope.

Both children and adults can get long COVID. It is more common in those who have been hospitalized but it also affects a large number of people who were not.

Jacki Graham, a retired flight attendant, was not ill enough to be admitted to the hospital for COVID-19. She experienced breathing difficulties and racing heart several months later. She lost her sense of taste and smell. Her blood pressure shot up.

She became so tired in the fall 2020 that she would go back to bed after her morning yoga.

Graham, 64, from Studio City, California, said that he is an early riser and would push himself to the limit, but that was it. "I would have said six months ago that COVID had ruined my entire life."

Hogan, a New York nurse, was not hospitalized with COVID-19, but has been severely ill since being diagnosed. The husband of Hogan, a disabled veteran, as well as her children, aged 9, 13 and 15, fell ill shortly after. They suffered from stomach pains, fever, and weakness for approximately a month. After that, things seemed to improve until new symptoms began.

Hogan's doctors believe that Hogan may have been more susceptible to the condition due to autoimmune disorders and a pre-existing disorder of connective tissue that causes joint pain.

POTENTIAL ANSWERS

Long COVID is not a condition that has been approved. However, some patients do experience relief with painkillers and other drugs. There may be more assistance in the future.

Akiko Iwasaki, an immunoobiologist, is investigating the intriguing possibility that COVID-19 vaccine might decrease long-term COVID symptoms. Yale University's Akiko Iwasaki is working with Survivor Corps, a patient group that studies the possibility of vaccinating long-term COVID patients who have not been vaccinated before.

Iwasaki is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute which supports The Associated Press Health and Science Department. She said that she is conducting this study because some patient groups reported improvements in their long-term COVID symptoms following treatment.

Nancy Rose, 67-year-old study participant, from Port Jefferson, New York said that many of her symptoms disappeared after she was vaccinated. However, she still experiences periods of fatigue and memory loss.

Recent studies from Israel and the U.S. show that getting vaccinated before COVID-19 can help to prevent or reduce the severity of the illness. Both studies were performed before the discovery of omicron.

Although neither has been published in peer-reviewed journals, experts outside the field say that the results are encouraging.

The Israeli study found that approximately two-thirds of the participants had received either one or two Pfizer shots. All the rest were unvaccinated. Two shots was at least half the risk of participants reporting fatigue, headaches, muscle weakness, pain, and other long-term COVID symptoms than those who did not receive them.

UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Patients are still waiting for clear answers.

Graham is one of many who sees improvement over time. After a lengthy COVID program at Cedars-Sinai, she enrolled in a study there beginning in April 2021 and was vaccinated.

She said that her blood pressure is now normal and her senses of smell and energy levels are closer to pre-COVID levels. Despite her ordeal, she ended up retiring early.

Hogan continues to struggle with symptoms such as agonizing nerve pain, "spaghetti legs" (limbs that suddenly become weak and unable bear weight), which are both conditions that affect her 13-year old son.

Scientists are concerned that COVID may become a chronic fatigue syndrome in some patients with long duration. This is a long-term condition that is poorly understood and has no approved treatment.

Experts agree that COVID for a long time will have a significant impact on the health of individuals and other economies, as well as causing a lot of economic damage. This could cost billions.

Patients can end up spending thousands of dollars even if they have insurance. Graham said that she spent about $6,000 on out-of-pocket expenses for scans, labs and doctor visits, as well as chiropractic care.

Pretorius, a South African scientist, stated that there is real concern about the future.

"So many people are losing there livelihoods and their homes. She said that they can't work anymore. "Long COVID is likely to have a greater impact on our economy that acute COVID."

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