(ORDO NEWS) — People who recover from COVID-19 suffer lung damage that is long-term. Researchers have evidence of chronic diseases.
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Of the 70 patients who had COVID-19 pneumonia, 66 had lung damage, which was detected by computed tomography.
The lesions are dense accumulations of hardened tissue blocking the blood vessels in the air sacs (alveoli) as well as tissue lesions around the alveoli, said radiologist Yuhui Wana from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan.
Such tissue damage can be a sign of chronic lung disease. Similar damage has been reported in people who have had respiratory illnesses caused by coronaviruses similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Long-term studies of patients with SARS showed that about a third of people who recovered from severe attacks suffered lung damage that did not heal for seven months.
The SARS and MERS viruses usually affect only one lung, while COVID-19 affects both. Wang and colleagues reported that 75 out of 90 patients admitted to Huajeong University Hospital with COVID-19 pneumonia from January 16 to February 17, 2020 were found to have damage to both lungs.
Computed tomography performed before discharge from the hospital revealed tissue lesions around the alveoli in 42 of 70 patients, which are very likely to remain in the form of scars.
Given how widespread the pandemic has been, hundreds of thousands of people are being diagnosed with chronic lung disease. Even a year ago, the situation was critical: as of April 27, 2020, there were more than 2.9 million people in the world infected with COVID-19.
By comparison, SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which broke out in 2003 and 2004, affected about 8,000 people. MERS, or respiratory syndrome, has been diagnosed in more than 2,500 people.
While approximately 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild, the remaining 20% have serious problems ranging from difficulty breathing to respiratory failure.
Wang and his colleagues suspect that some lung injuries are slowly healing and even disappearing altogether. However, in some patients, abnormalities in the lungs will turn into scarring – pulmonary fibrosis.
Scarring will prevent the lungs from supplying the body with enough oxygen. People with pulmonary fibrosis usually suffer from shortness of breath, which puts an end to physical activity, and even more so in physical education and sports.
At risk are elderly patients who have had severe episodes of COVID-19 pneumonia, patients with other diseases such as cancer or diabetes, and lung diseases caused by smoking or other pollution, says Xiaolong Qi of Lanzhou University First Hospital in China. where research is also being conducted on lung damage due to COVID-19.
The use of ventilators can also damage the lungs. Therefore, it is difficult to determine which injuries in patients are associated with the disease and which are related to its treatment, says radiologist Karuna Das from the University of the United Arab Emirates in Al Ain: “During the MERS outbreak, some patients were connected to a ventilator for more than 100 days. Oxygen is given with positive pressure, and when the lungs inflate too much, they get injured.”
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