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ST. LOUIS – A new research study sheds light on a question doctors have been asking since the start of the pandemic: does COVID-19 cause permanent lung damage? Long-term respiratory care damage is not a likelihood for those who have experienced lung ailments stemming from COVID-19 illness.

“So, the research is still ongoing, it is something we are still learning about, but most of the people for the most part recover completely,” said Dr. Mohsin Ehsan, a pulmonologist at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital – St. Charles.

He warns there are others who do see long-lasting consequences starting in the lungs based upon “how bad the disease was, the severity of the disease, the duration of the illness or how long they stayed in the hospital, and other possibilities like if they already had lung disease.” 

Ehsan says that early detection also factors into the study and for those who presented later, the lungs tend to do worse based on the fact that the patient had to wait for oxygen support longer. 

The study observed COVID-19 survivors who later underwent unrelated elective lung procedures. In all of the patients, tumor specimens showed no detectable lasting lung damage directly linked to COVID-19.  The new information is tempered by the fact that COVID is having significant long-term effects on people who contracted the virus, even those whose cases were mild or even asymptomatic.

Long COVID symptoms can range from loss of taste or smell, an inability to concentrate, new conditions affecting the heart or kidneys, and, most prevalent, individuals who have excessive fatigue and difficulty breathing.

Patients experiencing long COVID symptoms should work with their primary care or specialist physicians on an ongoing basis to receive the treatment needed to get well and fully recover. 

For more information about pulmonology, click here.

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