Studies estimate that 10% to 30% of people infected with the coronavirus may develop long-term symptoms. And in a recent analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs health records for more than 150,000 people who contracted COVID-19, researchers found that Covid survivors were at “substantial” risk of developing cardiovascular disease for up to a year afterward. of their initial illness, even if their infections never brought them to the hospital. Compared to millions of other patients who were never infected, Covid survivors were 63 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 52 percent more likely to have a stroke. They also had a higher risk of heart failure, irregular heart rhythms, blood clots, and inflammatory disorders such as pericarditis and myocarditis.
The problem is that traditional medical tests to diagnose heart disease — such as EKGs, ultrasounds and other functional tests of the heart — often show that people who have had COVID-19 have no obvious heart damage. “When we do all these tests, they actually look pretty good,” says Ruwanthi Titano, a cardiologist at the Post-Covid Care Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. As a result, doctors have had to reimagine how they diagnose and treat people with heart problems that persist long after a coronavirus infection.
If you have heart-related symptoms, whether it’s chest tightness or pain, shortness of breath, fast or skipped heartbeat, dizziness, or extreme fatigue, your healthcare provider may want to perform these basic tests to rule out any abnormalities or damage in the cardiovascular system, Titano said. But new studies suggest the culprit may be damage to nerve fibers that help control circulation. And this damage has a name: small fiber neuropathy.
Fortunately, the tools already exist to treat many types of post-Covid neuropathy. “People aren’t going to have to live with this for the rest of their lives,” said Salim Hayek, a cardiologist and co-director of Michigan Medicine’s Persistent COVID-19 Clinic in Ann Arbor. “The vast majority of the time, these symptoms, which range from palpitations to dizziness, resolve within six months of treatment.”
According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people who recover from COVID-19 get better when they receive personalized physical and mental rehabilitation services.