COVID-19 continues to show just how viruses change through mutation. But even before new variants came, many people reported organ damage, specifically lung damage. Since the SARS-CoV-2 targets the lung, it is no surprise that the virus caused severe and lasting effects on the said organ.
For one, COVID-19 can cause pneumonia. In severe cases, COVID-19 patients experience acute respiratory distress syndrome. Others even develop sepsis which causes major injuries to other organs other than the lungs.
In some cases, other organ functions were affected, leaving COVID-19 patients having to deal with other complications. While some managed to recover, others are left with severe organ damages. This is evident by the number of COVID-19 patients who end up reporting new symptoms irrelevant to their previous diagnosis.
Some organ damages common among COVID-19 patients are damages to the heart, kidney, liver, brain, and digestive tract. Here’s what experts have to say about the link between COVID-19 and these major organ damages.
COVID-19 causes oxygen supply and demand imbalance, which can lead to sepsis, blood clots, multisystem inflammation, and cardiomyopathy. Cardiac damage caused by COVID-19 puts patients at risk of heart failure. As for COVID-19 patients with preexisting heart failure history, the virus can trigger stress cardiomyopathy.
COVID-19 patients need to optimize cardiac care to detect early signs and stages of heart failure. Once patients detect cardiac manifestations and their doctors confirm the diagnosis, comprehensive cardiovascular care should be optimized. This can involve the use of different treatment options and lifestyle modifications.
Kidney patients are at higher risk of developing severe complications brought about by COVID-19. This is one reason why large dialysis companies are working double-time to provide their patients with a safe environment during the pandemic. They know that dialysis patients have weaker immune systems, making them at higher risk of getting the virus and developing severe complications.
Even COVID-19 patients who have no underlying kidney conditions end up showing kidney damage. Some showed moderate kidney injury, while others presented signs of severe kidney damages. Experts associate this with the virus’ ability to target kidney cells, the low oxygen levels in the blood, blood clots clogging the kidneys, or cytokine storms wrecking kidney function.
It is still unclear how some COVID-19 patients end up with a liver injury. One theory is that the virus can cause liver enzymes to elevate. The first published clinical manifestations of COVID-19 included liver enzyme elevation along with other systematic reviews and meta-analyses supporting this link.
The following are the possible mechanisms linking liver injury to COVID-19 infections.
- Drug-induced liver injury
- Direct cytopathic effect through Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Cytokine storm
- Aggravation of existing liver disease
According to a study, half of the COVID-19 patients who recovered showed signs of the virus in their fecal specimens. This is after their latest respiratory tract samples turned out negative. This suggests that the virus shed and replicated in other organs such as the liver and digestive tract.
Experts weighed in on the possible long-term effects of COVID-19 on the human brain. New evidence suggests that the virus can target specific brain cells. This then impacts the blood flow to the brain.
This is one reason why some patients reported memory loss which is not something they had trouble dealing with before the crisis. During the early days of the crisis, researchers hypothesized that the virus could impact brain cells responsible for transmitting and processing information. In another study, lab studies showed that the virus infects astrocytes, which explains brain fog, depression, and even fatigue.
Digestive Organ Damage
Another organ damage found in some COVID-19 patients is bowel abnormalities. In retrospect, some patients experience diarrhea after being diagnosed with COVID-19. This is because the virus can enter the body through the mouth, which can travel deep into your digestive system.
With a large number of ACE2 receptors in the gut along with its expansive surface area, this can be the virus’ ideal breeding ground. The virus then shed in the stool. Patients who presented digestive organ damage take longer to receive clearance compared to patients without gastrointestinal complications.
Other studies link COVID-19 with other organ damages. Some suggest long-term effects, while others claim these are only for a short period. This shows that even after winning against COVID-19, this is not an indication that you can say goodbye to the horrifying impact of the virus. It is crucial that patients talk to their healthcare providers and report new symptoms to get an early diagnosis.