Some COVID-19 patients continue to experience symptoms of the disease weeks and months after being diagnosed, particularly in cases where the disease does not become severe enough to require hospital admission, and physicians are trying to figure out why, NBC News reports.
The World Health Organization and the CDC have acknowledged reports of patients experiencing symptoms well after diagnosis and said they working to better understand why this happens.
But physicians across the country are already closely monitoring these patients with lingering symptoms. Jessica Dine, MD, a lung physician and director of the advance consultative pulmonary division at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, is working with these patients to better understand their illness.
Dr. Dine and her team use COVID Watch, a hospital texting service that conducts check-ins with COVID-19 patients at home daily, NBC News reports. They have two guesses about why some patients have lingering symptoms. One is that the virus is still in the patient’s body, though undetectable by testing, and the other is that the body’s immune system remains ready for action even when there is no virus, a condition known as post-viral inflammatory syndrome.
“What we need is more research to explain where the symptoms are coming from,” Dr. Dine told NBC News.
One theory physicians have is that the inflammation caused by COVID-19 affects the autonomic nervous system, which affects unconscious bodily functions, such as digestion, sweating and sleep, NBC reports.
But long-term inflammation has no specific treatment, and there is no good therapy for extreme fatigue, one of the most debilitating symptoms, Dr. Dine said.
At Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, clinicians have started developing protocols for patients experiencing lingering symptoms. The plans are personalized to each patient, but many include regimens for exercise, sleep and nutrition, David Putrino, PhD, director of rehabilitation innovation at the Mount Sinai told NBC.