"Some people who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience long-term effects from their infection, known as post-COVID conditions (PCC) or long COVID.
People call post-COVID conditions by many names, including: long COVID, long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC), long-term effects of COVID, and chronic COVID."
People with post-COVID conditions can have a wide range of symptoms that can last more than four weeks or even months after infection. Sometimes the symptoms can even go away or come back again.
Post-COVID conditions may not affect everyone the same way. People with post-COVID conditions may experience health problems from different types and combinations of symptoms happening over different lengths of time. Most patients’ symptoms slowly improve with time. However, for some people, post-COVID conditions may last months, and potentially years, after COVID-19 illness and may sometimes result in disability.
People who experience post-COVID conditions most commonly report:
- Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as “post-exertional malaise”)
Respiratory and heart symptoms
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
- Pins-and-needles feelings
- Change in smell or taste
- Depression or anxiety
- Stomach pain
- Joint or muscle pain
- Changes in menstrual cycles
COVID-19 causes changes in the brain
COVID-19 causes neurologic symptoms in two ways: by worsening pre-existing symptoms and by triggering entirely new symptoms. If a person already had nerve pain due to a neuropathy (a general term for nerve dysfunction) or spine injury, a case of COVID-19 was quite likely to aggravate the pain and leave it worse than before.
Likewise, a person with mild memory impairment of aging will likely find themselves with a significant decline in thinking abilities for several months after recovering from the initial infection.
Recent studies have found that entirely new, painful, small fiber neuropathies and new cognitive impairment can be triggered by COVID-19 infection in patients of any age, even in those that had only mild symptoms at the time of the infection.
With perhaps 1 in 4 Rhode Islanders having been infected with COVID-19, this means that you or someone you know may be experiencing post-COVID-19 brain fog.