World COPD Day 2021: Understanding The short And Long-term Effects Of Covid-19 On Your Lungs
All lung diseases can be aggravated due to the presence of COVID. The virus can occur in various manifestations and cause non-existent symptoms like cough and breathlessness.
One should be mindful of not letting their oxygen levels fall before 94%
The most prominent impact of COVID-19 when it comes to one's lung health is that almost 15% to 20% of cases is that it causes moderate to severe acute pneumonic patches in the lungs. Though only in a few situations, there is a need for oxygen supply, which is when a CT scan is done for screening these patches, also called GGO. In some people, these patches remain restricted and can be reversed, while in others, these can spread and affect the lung tissues. Therefore, causing degeneration of the lungs, eventually leading to lung failure. There are different levels and outcomes of involvement based on the severity of the disease.
Detection of Reversing of Symptoms
The rate of involvement can often be seen by knowing the respiratory rate. Most symptoms like coughing, breathlessness, low oxygen levels are seen if your lungs are affected. CT scans may also show the presence of pneumonic patches, which may differ in size, from being a small particle in one lobe of the lung to the bilateral involvement of the entire lung based on the severity that exists.
Are COVID recovered patients more prone to COPD and lung attacks?
COVID does not directly lead to COPD. If people suffering from COPD contract the COVID-19 virus, it can make the severity of diseases higher and more progressive, which can turn fatal for them. All lung diseases can be aggravated due to the presence of COVID. The virus can occur in various manifestations and cause non-existent symptoms like cough and breathlessness. This is why lung attacks, an attack involving severe breathlessness, can also occur in COPD patients, and with COVID, various other complications might arise.
Long-term effects of Coronavirus on COPD
In 80% of cases, no severe symptoms occur, with normal oxygen levels and few amounts of pneumonic patches seen in the lungs. While 10% to 15% of cases might see severe symptoms with low oxygen levels and life-threatening symptoms, which can cause them to be put on ventilator support or even death.
Recovered patients might suffer from long-term lung issues due to degeneration of lungs, formation of cavities, infections due to black fungus, fibrosis development, etc. can contribute to lower oxygen intake. Depending on the severity of the involvement, various effects are seen, ranging from zero symptoms to people needing 24/7 health support.
If people continue to suffer from common symptoms like fatigue, cough, breathlessness, and oxygen has desaturated below 90% at rest, mostly a residual long-term involvement is present for which a lung function test and HR CT scan is done to diagnose the issue and take various steps to manage and treat it.
Detecting COPD in Recovered Patients
As advised by your doctor, it is essential to regularly monitor your oxygen saturation levels at rest or while doing any activities. It is necessary to see the oxygen levels be higher than 94% to 95%; if the levels fall below, it and the person develops a cough, breathlessness while performing activities, it is advisable to consult a doctor and take diagnostic tests to understand the extent of involvement for better management.
Keeping a Healthy Lung Health
If a person's lung has contracted fibrosis, then anti-fibrosis drugs under medical supervision must be given. It is essential to indulge in physical activities that involve exercise, breath-holding techniques, and deep breathing methods done with oxygen monitoring systems. One should be mindful of not letting their oxygen levels fall before 94%. Practicing exercise that promotes breath-holding for more than 40s can help boost the rebuilding of stamina which is often reduced after an acute attack.
(Prof. (Dr.) Arvind Kumar, Chairman, Institute of Chest Surgery, Chest Onco-Surgery and Lung Transplantation. Co-Chairman, Medanta Robotic Institute)
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