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LONG COVID

What You Need To Know
WHAT IS LONG COVID?

Long COVID, also known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), refers to a condition in which individuals who have recovered from the acute phase of COVID-19 continue to experience a range of symptoms and health issues for an extended period of time, often for weeks or months after the initial infection has resolved. Long COVID is characterised by a diverse set of symptoms that can affect various systems in the body.

It's important to note that long COVID affects individuals differently, and the severity and duration of symptoms can vary widely. While some people may experience mild symptoms that gradually improve, others may have more severe and persistent symptoms that significantly impact their quality of life.

The exact cause of long COVID is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of factors, including persistent viral presence, immune system dysregulation, and othermechanisms.

Research into the condition is ongoing as we develop strategies to manage and treat long COVID symptoms.

DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosing long COVID can be challenging due to its diverse range of symptoms and the absence of specific diagnostic tests. A diagnosis of long COVID is typically made based on clinical evaluation and a thorough assessment of the patient's medical history. Here are the key steps involved in diagnosing long COVID:

  • Clinical Evaluation

  • History of COVID-19 Infection

  • Exclusion of Other Conditions: Long COVID is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that other medical conditions with similar symptoms must be ruled out. This may involve various tests and assessments, depending on the patient's specific symptoms. Conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune diseases, and other chronic illnesses may need to be considered.

  • Symptom Duration: In general, a diagnosis of long COVID is considered when COVID-19-related symptoms persist for at least 12 weeks after the acute phase of the infection.

  • Multidisciplinary Evaluation: In many cases, patients with long COVID benefit from evaluation by multiple specialists, depending on their specific symptoms. This may include pulmonologists, cardiologists, neurologists, rheumatologists, and mental health professionals.

  • Laboratory and Imaging Tests: Depending on the patient's symptoms and clinical presentation, additional tests such as blood tests, chest X-rays, lung function tests, cardiac imaging, or brain imaging may be ordered to assess the extent of organ involvement and rule out other underlying conditions.

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SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
  • Fatigue: Persistent and debilitating fatigue that can interfere with daily activities.

  • Shortness of Breath: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, even in individuals who had mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 during the acute phase.

  • Chest Pain: Chest pain or discomfort, which can be due to various causes, including inflammation of the heart or lungs.

  • Cognitive Impairment: Often referred to as "brain fog," this includes problems with memory, concentration, and cognitive function.

  • Joint and Muscle Pain: Widespread pain, muscle aches, and joint pain, which can resemble symptoms of fibromyalgia.

  • Headaches: Frequent or severe headaches that persist beyond the acute phase of the illness.

  • Loss of Taste and Smell: Altered or loss of taste and smell, which may persist long after the virus is cleared from the body.

  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Digestive problems such as diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain.

  • Heart Issues: Cardiac symptoms, including palpitations, chest discomfort, and inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis).

  • Mood and Mental Health Symptoms: Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues can be associated with long COVID, possibly related to the overall impact of the illness.

LONG COVID AND AUTOIMMUNITY

COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is primarily known for its respiratory symptoms. However, it can also have various effects on the immune system, potentially triggering or exacerbating autoimmune diseases in some individuals. Here's how COVID-19 can be linked to autoimmune conditions:

  • Immune Dysregulation: COVID-19 can cause a dysregulation of the immune system. In some cases, the immune response can become overactive, leading to an excessive release of inflammatory molecules called cytokines. This overactive immune response can potentially trigger or worsen autoimmune diseases.

  • Molecular Mimicry: Some viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, may trigger autoimmune responses through a phenomenon known as molecular mimicry. In molecular mimicry, viral proteins or structures resemble human proteins. The immune system's response to the virus may also target similar human proteins, leading to autoimmune reactions.

  • Epigenetic Changes: Viral infections like COVID-19 can induce epigenetic changes in immune cells. These changes can affect how immune cells function and may contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases in susceptible individuals.

  • Reactivation of Latent Infections: In some cases, viral infections like COVID-19 can reactivate latent infections, such as Epstein-Barr virus or cytomegalovirus. These reactivated infections may trigger autoimmune responses.

  • Stress and Psychological Factors: The psychological stress associated with contracting and recovering from COVID-19 can also contribute to autoimmune reactions. Stress can affect the immune system and may play a role in the development or exacerbation of autoimmune diseases.

LONG COVID AND VIRAL RE-ACTIVATIONS

COVID-19 itself is not known to directly reactivate viral infections in the sense that it causes other dormant viruses to become active within the body. However, COVID-19 can weaken the immune system and disrupt its normal functioning, which may potentially lead to the reactivation of latent viral infections in some individuals.

Here are some important points to consider:

  • Immunosuppression: COVID-19 can suppress the immune system's normal functions, particularly in severe cases. A weakened immune system may have difficulty controlling latent viral infections that were previously kept in check.

  • Stress and Inflammation: The stress and inflammation associated with a COVID-19 infection can also impact the body's ability to manage latent viral infections. Stress and inflammation can weaken the immune response and create conditions in which dormant viruses may reactivate.

  • Specific Viral Interactions: Some viruses, like herpesviruses (e.g., Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus), are known to become reactivated during times of immune compromise or stress. COVID-19-induced immune suppression or the body's response to the virus might create an environment conducive to the reactivation of these viruses in susceptible individuals.

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HOW WE CAN HELP YOU

A Functional Medicine Approach to Long Covid

A functional medicine approach to long COVID, also known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), involves a comprehensive and individualised approach to address the wide range of symptoms and underlying imbalances that patients with long COVID may experience. Functional medicine focuses on treating the root causes of health issues rather than just managing symptoms. Here are the key components of a functional medicine approach to long COVID:

  • COMPREHENSIVE ASSESSMENTThorough client history, we take a detailed history of the client's COVID-19 infection, symptoms, and any pre-existing health conditions.

  • EXTENSIVE LAB TESTING: We perform, if necessary. a wide range of laboratory tests to assess biomarkers, immune function, inflammation levels, and nutritional status.

  • PERSONALISED TREATMENT PLAN: We develop a personalised treatment plan tailored to the individual's specific symptoms and needs.

  • ADDRESS UNDERLYING IMBALANCES: We identify and address any underlying factors contributing to the symptoms, such as inflammation, immune dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, or nutrient deficiencies.

  • NUTRITION AND DIET:  We focus on optimising nutrient intake to support the body's healing process. We emphasise an anti-inflammatory diet rich in whole foods, antioxidants, and essential nutrients.

  • GUT HEALTH:  We assess and improve gut health as it plays a significant role in immune function and overall health.

  • IMMUNE SYSTEM SUPPORT We address immune system dysregulation, which can very much contribute to long COVID symptoms.

  • LIFESTYLE FACTORS: We address sleep disturbances and prioritise good sleep hygiene to aid in recovery. We consider movement and exercise and how they may play a role in recovery. 

  • MONITORING: We continuously monitor progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed.

To take a proactive role in managing your health, we encourage you to reach out to our team. We have extensive experience assisting individuals with complex conditions such as long Covid.

SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT WITH US TODAY. 

 

 We offer a range of appointments in-person or online. 
You will receive the same service and expertise from us through our virtual, online clinic, just as you would if you visited us at our London clinic.

To discuss how we can assist you, call us on 020 3886 1339, or email us at  hello@autoimmunecliniclondon.com.

 

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