COVID-19 (Coronavirus) can cause long lasting lung damage. As more research is done, the medical field is learning more regarding how it affects the lungs.
In a recent article in HopkinsMedicine.org, Panagis Galiatsatos, M.D., M.H.S., an expert on lung disease, explains some of the short- and long-term lung problems brought on by the new coronavirus.
Two types of complications that he identifies that can result from Coronavirus are pneumonia and more serious, ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) . Both of these conditions can cause lasting harm to the lungs, as well as other organs.
With pneumonia, the lungs become inflamed and filled with fluid. Typically affecting one lung and can sometimes be severe to the point the patient requires hospitalization and a respirator. The pneumonia associated with COVID-19 tends to take hold of both lungs and can be quite severe. Even after the disease has passed, injury to the lungs can be sever and take months for recovery.
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
As COVID-19 pneumonia progresses, the air sacs become filled with fluid which leaks from tiny vessels in the lungs, which can lead to ARDS and lung failure. This progression typically requires a ventilator in order to assist the patient with breathing and to circulate oxygen in the body.
Other complications from COVID-19 include Sepsis and Superinfection, leading to severe lung damage and even death.
Three Factors in Coronavirus Lung Damage
In his article, Galiatsatos notes three factors that affect the lung damage risk in COVID-19 infections and how likely the person is to recover and regain lung function:
- Disease severity
- Health Condition of the Patient
After a serious case of COVID-19, a patient’s lungs can recover, but not overnight. “Recovery from lung damage takes time,” Galiatsatos says. “There’s the initial injury to the lungs, followed by scarring. Over time, the tissue heals, but it can take three months to a year or more for a person’s lung function to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.”
Things That Patients Can Do to Reduce the Chance of Severe Lung Damage
- Take any prescribed medications, especially with diabetes, COPD or heart disesase.
- Maintain proper nutrition
- Stay hydrated