LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Doctors at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences are diving deeper into the impacts of COVID-19 after seeing more patients experience long-term symptoms.
Doctors say about 30% of COVID-19 patients experience ‘long-haul covid’ where symptoms like headaches, shortness of breath and brain fog can linger months after patients test negative.
“I got COVID early December of last year and it was very flu-like,” Erica Barnet said.
Barnet says she has always been a pretty active person, but when she went back to the gym after recovering from COVID-19, it was like walking in for the first time.
“It was just a lot harder to catch my breath,” said Barnet.
Barnet says she experienced shortness of breath anywhere from 3-6 months after testing negative for COVID-19. Doctors say in some cases symptoms can last even longer than that.
“I’ve had people who have had symptoms as long as a year,” UAMS Medical Intensive Care Director Dr. Nikhil Meena said. “Headaches, hallucinations and brain fog.”
Dr. Meena says some are coming back to the hospital and doctor’s offices putting a strain on medical professionals who are already busy.
“We keep having these surges and then on top of that we still have a particularly accumulating amount of patients who still have to be seen,” Meena said.
Dr. John Arthur is a Nephrologist at UAMS and has been studying the causes of long-haul covid. He says it happens in about 30 percent of patients and the longer the symptoms stick around, the more potential damage they could cause.
“The protein that we think the antibody is against is located in a lot of different places: the heart, the lungs, the brain, the kidney,” Arthur said. “So, it could potentially have long-lasting effects on a lot of those systems.”
Arthur says most will have to ride out the symptoms and the best way to prevent them is to avoid covid all together.
Doctors at UAMS say in some cases getting the vaccine has helped alleviate symptoms, but it doesn’t always happen.
Researchers say they are diving deeper into the cause with hopes to find a cure.