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Health problems likely to trouble you even after recovering from Covid-19

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy MERCY KAHENDA | Tue,Nov 17 2020 06:00:00 EAT
By MERCY KAHENDA | Tue,Nov 17 2020 06:00:00 EAT

People who recover from Covid-19 risk other health complications.

Dan Ndiwa, a consultant general surgeon in Eldoret, who contracted Covid-19 more than a month ago, says he now experiences extreme fatigue and persistent headaches that don’t seem to respond to painkillers.

“The fatigue is really bad. When I wake up I feel like I have been working kwa mjengo (construction site). I am always lethargic and do not want to work,” he says.

Covid 19 Time Series


Dr Ndiwa experiences episodes of too much sleep (somnolence) when the fatigue sets and the headache makes him lose sleep (insomnia).

Mwita Riro, a consultant physician at Kiambu Level Five Hospital, says people diagnosed with Covid-19 develop other health complications.

Pre-existing diseases

He explains that the virus affects major organs like the heart, causing heart failure; brain, causing mental challenges; lungs, causing respiratory complications; and the pancreas, causing diabetes.

The virus also causes blood clotting that affects the arteries, veins and the small blood vessels.

“Complications of the disease vary from one patient to another. For instance, those with other preexisting diseases like diabetes and hypertension are more vulnerable,” says Dr Riro.

Other complications include chronic fatigue, sleep disturbance, memory impairment and mental health disturbances.

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He says that some people who were admitted in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) develop anxiety when they later learn that other patients succumbed to the virus.

In a study published in The Lancet, cardiovascular disease was shown to play an important role in Covid-19 pathology early in the pandemic. Myocardial (heart muscle) inflammation after recovery from Covid-19, even in asymptomatic or mild symptomatic patients, was reported.

Riro advises individuals who recover from the virus to regularly visit physicians for check-ups so that cases like heart problems, diabetes and hypertension can be diagnosed early and treatment started.

"It is only through check-up that other health complications can be detected and treated,” he says.

He adds that doctors should find a way of handling patients holistically, from medical to psychological support.

“We have to be cautious as doctors. Other than dealing with managing the disease, we need to deal with it holistically, and not just pulmonary issues,” he says.

Riro further notes that a number of patients exhibit cough and shortness of breath, and on review are diagnosed with the virus.

In a study published in Lancet Psychiatry journal, in the three months following testing positive for Covid-19, one in five survivors were recorded as having first-time diagnosis of anxiety, depression or insomnia.

The study shows that SARS-COV-2 can penetrate the brain and cause direct damage to neuronal networks. Patients might experience long-term neuropsychiatric complications, which might be exacerbated by the distress caused by infection.

Further, it states that SARS-CoV-2 might attack kidneys directly, but kidneys are also vulnerable to uncontrolled inflammation and blood clots that are caused by the virus.

“The International Society of Nephrology reported that kidney abnormalities are observed in 20 per cent to 50 per cent of patients with severe Covid-19 who require hospitalisation,” reads the journal.

“Additionally, by damaging the endothelium, Covid-19 might result in abnormal blood clotting, with an estimate suggesting that up to 30 per cent of people with severe Covid-19 develop blood clots,” reads a reaction of the study.

Edith Kwoba, a consultant psychiatrist at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, says although patients recover from the disease, the majority are subjected to psychological torture due to the stigma associated with it.

“People who recover from the virus require counselling to guarantee their mental stability and also to overcome anxiety,” she says.

To avert stigma, Dr Kwoba also advises families to find a strong support team to walk with them in the recovery journey. “Nobody chooses to get sick. It is just like flu; anyone can get infected. So let us support each other to win this fight,” she advises.

Susan Wambui Maguta, 40, who recovered from Covid-19 after diagnosis on October 22, says she experiences anxiety and insomnia. “I wake up exhausted every day because I struggle to sleep at night. At times, I think of patients who have succumbed to the virus, some of whom are my friends,” says Ms Maguta.

A nurse at Bahati Hospital in Nakuru, who requested anonymity, told The Standard, that though she recovered from coronavirus disease, her sugar levels are not normal.

“There is no history of diabetes in my family, neither have I ever had a problem with my sugar levels. It is unfortunate that I will have to live with this condition,” says the nurse.

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