Effects of Covid-19 on the Lungs
Covid-19 effects the human body and causes destructive conditions in various ways on a number of organs.
The most affected one are the lungs. There are several lung complications a virus infection can cause, not just acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is the most severe case.
Learn more about the Effects of Covid-19 on the Lungs with the Wiener Privatklinik.
The effects of the COVID-19 infection on healthy and sick lungs
What is Covid-19 actually? COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, which especially but not exclusively attacks the respiratory tract: This includes the lungs!
The scope of breathing problems caused by COVID-19 ranges from mild to critical. That is one reason why older adults or people with weakened health conditions are the critical segment of the society and especially vulnerable: lung or heart disease, diabetes and other conditions lead to the situation, that a COVID-19 infection has a more critical scope.
The first contact the virus has with the human body is with the mucous membrane. This membrane covers the surface of nose mouth and eyes. The virus operates here very tricky and triggers a chain infective reaction: It enters a healthy cell, uses it to create new virus parts, those infect nearby cells and the virus widen its scope in that way more and more.
Now it is important to understand the structure of the respiratory tract, which is built in the form of an upside-down tree. The trunk is called the trachea, splitting into smaller and smaller branches in the lungs. At the end of each lung branch you’ll find tiny air sacs called alveoli. The gas exchange takes place exactly here; this is the location where oxygen goes into the blood and carbon dioxide comes out. Both, upper or lower parts of the respiratory tract can be affected in case of a Covid-19 infection. In some cases, the infection can reach even the alveoli. This leads to the reaction that the immune system fights back immediately, once the infection reached the tract. The result is a swelling and inflammation of the airways, which can start in one part of the lung and spread to other parts.
The vast majority of around 80% of people infected get mild to moderate symptoms, which appear in the form of a dry cough or a sore throat. 14% of COVID-19 are more severe: The infection affects in those cases both lungs, which means the swelling gets worse and the lungs fill with fluid and debris. Also more serious pneumonia cases have been recorded. In those cases the air sacs fill cells that are trying to fight the infection. This can make it harder for the body to take in oxygen. As a result, patients have trouble breathing, feel short of breath or even breathe faster.
The other 6% are critical COVID-19 infections; the walls and linings of the air sacs in the lungs get damaged. The body tries to fight the damage and attack, lungs become more inflamed and filled with fluid. The exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide becomes much more difficult.
Those cases can lead to severe pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), in which the lungs might end up needing help from a machine called a ventilator to work and function properly.
Of those cases, 25-30% critically ill patients can develop clots in the lungs, heart, brain and legs; which can be life threatening. Some people have needed lung transplants in those cases.
When after an infection a lung check should be done and which tests are recommended to execute after an infection with COVID-19
The examinations in the case of an infection should be always executed within 3 months, but this time frame relates to the mild, so not severe, cases. In the above described severe or critical cases an examination in the first four weeks is absolutely required to rest assure about possible necessary follow up treatments and adequate next steps.
The tests which should be execute are not by default but depend on the status and severity of the infection.
For mild cases and if there are no symptoms anymore at the time of examination it is recommended to have an interview, a general physical exam plus body plethysmography.
Same severity cases but with continuing symptoms should additionally execute Laboratory examination including CRP, creatinine, D-dimers, troponin and the check of the urine status and Apparatus examinations including EKG, ergometry, body plethysmography, X-Ray and CT-Scan.
The same complexity of tests should be executed for severe cases which have no symptoms anymore, while severe cases with persistent symptoms require additionally long term frequent and regular follow up examinations, advice on the option of a special rehab and consultation whether a criteria for recognition as an occupational disease could exist.
Are people who suffered from Covid-19 immune and can’t infect other people anymore?
While it is assumed that people are at least partially immune, it is yet not confirmed, adequate examined or sufficient recorded whether it is possible that they could infect others if they come in contact with the virus again. Therefor to be safe: Regarding their social behaviour even people which have been infected but fully recovered should act like they’ve never been infected.
This means following the AHA + L + A formula, which stands for: Distance keeping, observe hygiene, always wear a mask, and ventilate the interior regularly.
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