Should I get tested for COVID-19 if I have a sore throat?
What are the potential complications of COVID-19?
About 80% of people infected with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate symptoms and can recover without requiring hospitalization. However, about 15% become seriously ill and need oxygen. About 5% become seriously ill and require immediate medical attention.
COVID-19 has the potential to cause health complications and even death in susceptible people. Complications include:
Older adults and those with the following conditions are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19:
Which organs can be damaged by COVID-19?
COVID-19 can cause lung problems such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in severe cases.
Pneumonia: Pneumonia causes the lungs to swell and fill with fluid. This can lead to breathing difficulties, which can become so severe that hospitalization, oxygen therapy, and monitoring of oxygen saturation may be required. While most people recover from pneumonia without any long-term consequences, pneumonia caused by COVID-19 can be quite dangerous. Even after the infection clears, damage to the lungs can cause breathing problems that last for months, leading to further complications.
Acute respiratory distress: ARDS is a condition in which excess fluid builds up in the small air sacs of the lungs, causing blood oxygen levels to drop below normal (hypoxemia). In most cases of COVID-19, the virus sticks to the upper airways around the throat, triggering an immune response. In rare cases, however, the virus can cross the upper respiratory tract and enter the lungs and alveoli, resulting in ARDS, which usually appears 8 days after the first symptoms appear. Risk factors such as older age, diabetes, and high blood pressure increase the likelihood of having ARDS with COVID-19.
Underlying heart conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease have been linked to poor outcomes in patients with COVID-19. Cardiovascular complications such as myocardial damage, heart failure and arrhythmias have also been associated with poor survival.
In a recent study, researchers detected cardiac abnormalities in 78% of patients with COVID-19, as well as ongoing myocardial inflammation in 60%. Although their heart function appeared to be preserved, elevated levels of the blood enzyme troponin (an indication of heart damage) were identified in 76% of patients. Notably, most people in the study did not require hospitalization.
Even patients who did not have kidney problems before COVID-19 infection have been shown to have kidney failure and tissue destruction after illness. According to some reports, up to 30% of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals in China and New York had moderate or severe kidney damage. Proteinuria or excess protein in the urine and abnormal blood components are both indicators of kidney failure.
Because the kidneys contain angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors, they are vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. The virus triggers an immune response that can be aggressive and lead to a cytokine storm that destroys kidney cells.
Since the liver also contains ACE2 receptors, people with COVID-19 are at risk for liver damage. Some patients with COVID-19 have been shown to have higher levels of liver enzymes, such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), which are signs of liver damage.
Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 who also have a history of cirrhosis (liver tissue damage) or pre-existing liver disease (chronic liver disease) are at higher risk of death.
The nervous system
There has been an increase in the frequency of COVID-19 patients reporting neurological symptoms such as brain inflammation, seizures and hallucinations.
According to a study published in JAMA Neurology by a group of Chinese doctors, more than a third of 214 COVID-19 patients in Wuhan who were hospitalized with severe symptoms had neurological symptoms. The most common symptoms were dizziness, headache, impaired consciousness, loss of taste and smell, and skeletal damage. According to the study, the most dangerous symptoms, although rare, were seizures and strokes.