Covid-19 cases have been on rise in the past couple of weeks in India, but the virus is no longer perceived as a threat it earlier was. People have been largely reporting mild cases of Covid in the recent times, however, its long-term impact on people's health remains unclear. The pandemic not only affected mental health as people lived in isolation from their loved ones and many grieved for their departed ones, it also impacted physical health as many studies discussed the virus's impact on heart, lungs, kidneys and other body processes. The ongoing pandemic also acted as a roadblock to diagnosis and treatment of many existing diseases that could have been cured effectively otherwise. Another aspect of Covid-19 pandemic has been the sedentary lifestyle people became accustomed to. Many are still reeling with its impact as its endless side-effects continue to ail people. (Also read: World Health Day 2023: 11 everyday aches and pains you shouldn't ignore)
Chronic diseases are those that last for at least one year or more and require ongoing medical attention. Be it diabetes, cancer heart disease, chronic kidney disease, they are the leading cause of death and disability all over the world. On the occasion of World Health Day (April 7), we asked experts about the chronic illnesses that are on rise post pandemic.
"If we look at the statistics, lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases are on rise in the post- pandemic era. One may wonder why this is happening. During the pandemic era, the people were sitting at home doing Yoga, Pranayama and exercises. There was hardly any traffic on the roads. Now the roads are full, and so also the traffic jams people were on their nerves and cursing each other. Businesses are thriving and so also the competition that is the reason for increased BP in the population. People are having no time for exercise or yoga and eating unhealthy food, smoking, and drinking alcohol to reduce stress. In the nutshell, a ripe atmosphere for lifestyle diseases," says Dr Pawan Kumar Goyal - Senior Consultant - Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh.
"Covid-19 not only affects lung but also harm kidneys, heart, and brain. Many psycho-social issues are also brought on by it. Heart attacks, paralysis, kidney illness, or a need for long-term oxygen are just a few of the less frequent but dangerous adverse effects. Cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are among the main comorbidities with Covid-19. People of any age can get Covid-19 infection, but the elderly are most vulnerable. The pandemic significantly hampered the ability to diagnose, treat, and monitor chronic diseases. As a result, there are now more people suffering from chronic illnesses," says Dr Parth Prajapati, MD - General Medicine, General Physician, Lybrate.
“The burden of non-communicable diseases has been on an alarming rise in India, accounting for 66% of deaths in 2019. The last three years brought to the fore the relationship COVID-19 and NCDs share, i.e., both exacerbating each other's impact. NCDs that involve the cardio-renal-metabolic systems like diabetes, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and cardiovascular diseases are the top contributors to the rising healthcare burden. Moreover, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in our Indian population, accounting for over 1 out of all 4 deaths. Our national health policy aims to reduce the risk of premature deaths in India by 25%, by the year 2025," says Dr. Shraddha Bhure, Medical Director, Boehringer Ingelheim India.
Here are chronic illnesses that have become common post Covid-19.
Table of Contents
1. Psychological conditions
"Anxiety, depression, new or worsened problems with memory, concentration issues, worsened quality of life have become common post pandemic. The contributing factors have been stress, isolation, grief due to loss of near and dear ones and financial hardships," says Dr Rajiva Gupta, Senior Consultant - Internal medicine at the CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram.
"Covid-19 has had a significant impact on mental health, with increased rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders reported. These conditions can be chronic and long-lasting and can have a significant impact on quality of life," says Dr. Akshay Challani Consultant General Medicine, Apollo Hospitals Navi Mumbai.
"As Covid-19 targets multiple proteins involved in the pathophysiology, the infection may raise the risk of getting several cancers. A recent study described how the Covid-19 virus interacts with p53 and associated pathways, potentially leading to DNA and cell oxidative damage," says Dr Prajapati.
3. Respiratory illnesses:
"Covid-19 may result in long term persistent cough, shortness of breath, tightness of the chest etc. These may deteriorate the quality of life of people with pre-existing respiratory conditions like Asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)," says Dr Gupta.
"Covid-19 primarily affects the respiratory system, and individuals who have recovered from the virus may experience long-term respiratory symptoms, such as cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Additionally, exposure to indoor air pollution can also increase the risk of developing respiratory conditions," says Dr Challani.
"Increasing evidence indicates that the prevalence of hypertension among people has reached epidemic levels. According to a study in the journal Circulation, Covid pandemic has increased patients with high blood pressure among different age groups which is worrisome," says Dr Prajapati.
5. Heart diseases
"The risk of cardiovascular or heart complications eg heart attack, stroke, irregularities of the heart rhythms, heart failure and blood clotting may have increased after Covid-19," says Dr Gupta.
"Some Covid-19 survivors may develop newly diagnosed diabetes or other long-term health problems. High blood glucose, or blood sugar, causes this chronic illness," says Dr Prajapati.
"Inhaled oxygen typically has a more challenging time entering the bloodstream for persons with Covid-19. An inflammatory reaction can start when the immune system encounters a virus or other foreign substance. As a result, the muscles around the airways contract, and the airways narrow, swell, and produce more mucus. The subsequent mucus build-up causes related symptoms, such as coughing, chest aches, wheezing, etc," says Dr Prajapati.
8. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
The respiratory and lung symptoms of Covid-19 may be substantially more severe for people with COPD than those without COPD. Being diagnosed with COPD already increases your risk of developing pneumonia, which is true of Covid-19. You could experience worsening COPD symptoms in addition to the signs of Covid-19, which would make breathing extremely difficult and cause severe shortness of breath," says Dr Prajapati.