By Tabitha Block, Jonathann Kuo MD
What is long COVID?
Long COVID, formally known as Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome (PACS) , is a range of symptoms that can last weeks or months after being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Some individuals infected with COVID-19 experience new, returning, or ongoing health problems as a result of an immune response caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Most commonly, patients with long COVID experience combinations of symptoms that may include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, tiredness or fatigue, post-exertional malaise, difficulty concentrating (also known as “brain fog”), cough, chest pain, headache, heart palpitations, joint or muscle pain, diarrhea, sleep problems, fever, dizziness, rash, and changes in smell or taste (1). Depending on the predominant persisting symptoms, long COVID can be categorized into ten broad groups: long COVID cardio-respiratory syndrome, long COVID fatigue syndrome, long COVID neuropsychiatric syndrome, long COVID gastrointestinal syndrome, long COVID hepato-biliary syndrome, long COVID musculoskeletal syndrome, long COVID thromboembolic syndrome, long COVID autoimmune syndrome, and long COVID genito-urinary syndrome (1).
The physiological causes of long COVID progression have yet to be fully understood, but research has indicated that extent of organ damage, time required for organ recovery, persistence of chronic inflammation, and some psychological symptoms like post-traumatic stress may contribute to the persistence of symptoms (1-3). The severity of initial COVID infection may be associated with the risk of developing long COVID, but unfortunately, long COVID can affect any individual who has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, even if their initial symptom presentation was mild or asymptomatic. The majority of patients who experience mild COVID symptoms will have negative PCR results (microbiological recovery) within 7-10 days, but patients with long COVID will present with various symptoms despite microbiological recovery. Further, clinical studies show that 87% of recovered individuals who were previously hospitalized due to severe COVID symptoms experience the persistence of at least one symptom for over 60 days (2). In addition to individuals who experience severe disease, women and individuals with comorbidities have an increased risk of developing long COVID (1).
As long COVID is a new disease that can affect many different organ systems, treatment of long COVID can be extremely difficult. Treatment plans for patients with long COVID are typically multi-disciplinary and focus on symptomatic management and treatment of underlying problems (4). Some symptoms, such as cough or fever, can be managed using over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, but other symptoms, such as brain fog, are difficult to treat with traditional protocols. Despite the use of traditional treatments, many long COVID patients experience debilitating symptoms that can delay their return to work and diminish quality of life. This disease can have a significant social and economic impact on individuals struggling with long COVID symptom management. As such depending on your needs, we can design an individualized treatment plan that targets your long COVID symptoms. These treatment options include Stellate Ganglion Blocks, High-Dose Vitamin C and Glutathione IV Infusions, NAD+ IV Infusions, and Exosome Infusions.