The death toll isn’t the only staggering statistic from the first two years of the pandemic. What’s become increasing clear is that some COVID-19 patients don’t get well right away. Since the earliest days of the pandemic, we’ve heard of survivors who continue to experience shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, lingering difficulty with taste and smell, and brain fog. But researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Veterans Administration (VA) have found that other problems also affect people long after infection with the virus. In a series of studies, epidemiologist Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, an assistant professor of medicine who treats patients in the VA St. Louis Health Care System, has found that following COVID-19 infection, people are more likely to develop kidney problems, heart issues, diabetes and mental health difficulties such as depression and anxiety. The percentage of patients who go on to have those issues is relatively low, but with so many people having been infected, the absolute number of people with lingering problems is in the millions.
Meanwhile, another team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine found that those who tested positive for the virus are more likely to report problems with peripheral neuropathy, which is characterized by pain and tingling in the hands and feet. Simon Haroutonian, PhD, an associate professor of anesthesiology and chief of clinical research at the Washington University Pain Center, found that nearly 30% of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 also reported neuropathy problems, and in 6% to 7% of those patients, the problems persisted for up to three months.