POST-COVID PULMONARY FIBROSIS: Coronaviruses spread mainly through virus released when we breathe. But as time went on, symptoms became clear like loss of smell, digestive-tract issues. And over time, what also became apparent is that the symptoms didn't necessarily disappear even after the recovery from the novel coronavirus. What is post-COVID pulmonary fibrosis? Pulmonary fibrosis is a condition which occurs when delicate parts of the lungs become damaged and scarred. The thickened, stiff tissue makes it more challenging for the air sacs to work effectively. In some cases, this can lead to breathing difficulties and fatigue, as well as leaving the patient more vulnerable to other lung infections in the future. Post-COVID fibrosis is an irreversible disease, and sometimes the damage is so extensive that a patient may need a lung transplant.
Causes of post-COVID fibrosis
Dr Nikhil Modi, Senior Consultant, Respiratory, Critical Care and Sleep Disorder at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, states that "a blend of factors may contribute to post-COVID pulmonary fibrosis, but the primary reason is inflammation of the lungs which leads to the fibrosis. One could be that the coronavirus causes the immune system to create blood clots, which then prevent blood from going to specific segments of the lung. Another possibility is that the body’s immune response to the virus makes inflammatory debris that leads to clots in capillary-level vessels. As a result, in both the cases that portions of the lung die, thus forming holes in the lungs. Pulmonary fibrosis is an irreversible condition, and it can be progressive also, which means it becomes worse over time."
What are the symptoms of post-COVID pulmonary fibrosis?
The progress of pulmonary fibrosis and the severity of symptoms can considerably vary from person to person. Some patients become ill very quickly with severe disease. While others may have moderate symptoms that deteriorate slowly, over months or years.
Signs and symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis may include the following:
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- A dry cough
- Unexplained weight loss
- Aching muscles and joints
Some people may experience a rapid worsening of their symptoms (acute exacerbation), such as severe shortness of breath, that may stay for several days to weeks. People who have acute exacerbations may be kept on a mechanical ventilator. Doctors may also prescribe antibiotics or other medications to treat an acute exacerbation.
What are the treatment options available? There is no cure for pulmonary fibrosis. Current treatments for pulmonary fibrosis are more directed at slowing the course of the disease, relieving symptoms and helping to stay active and healthy.
Treatments for pulmonary fibrosis comprise:
- Medicine depending on the sort of pulmonary fibrosis one has, there may be medications to help relieve the symptoms and others that will slow the progression of the disease. Only the medical provider can determine if any prescriptions may be beneficial for the patient.
- Oxygen Therapy sometimes it may be prescribed if the lung disease is preventing a healthy level of oxygen from getting into the bloodstream. It may help reduce the shortness of breath and make it easier for the patient to stay active.
- Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a program that teaches about the lung disease, how to exercise and manage the disease and provides support and counselling. Lung Transplant evaluation should be recommended by the physician early after diagnosis.
- Healthy Lifestyle is essential to accelerate COVID recovery. Nutrition, exercise, stress management and protecting the lungs all have an impact on the disease.
Steps one can take to continue to minimize exposure and risk include:
- Wearing masks
- Handwash/ Sanitization
- Social distancing
With these precautionary measures, the chances of COVID-19 spreading drops dramatically.
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