Covid-19: Cured sufferers coming again with lung fibrosis

Naina Mishra
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, October 5

Tricity doctors have detected a worrying trend of cured Covid-19 patients returning after a few weeks with lung fibrosis — scarring of lung tissues, breathlessness and muscle ache.

It has been two months since a Covid patient in his 70s was sent home from hospital as per the guidelines of the government. However, the path to recovery has been slightly longer for him. “Whenever I am at rest, I face no problem at all. However, as soon as I get up to start any physical activity, I don’t find enough strength in my body. I cannot walk beyond 3 km as I get tired easily. I often feel breathlessness,” said the 72-year-old man. A 33-year-old man, who contracted the infection on August 25, said he felt drowsiness most of the time along with muscle pain.

Dr Sahajal Dhooria from the Department of Pulmonary Medicine, PGI, said, “Breathlessness, fatigue, muscle pain and cough are the residual symptoms post-Covid. Internal swelling in lungs during acute Covid illness heals with scarring and shrinkage, resulting in a reduction in the lung capacity, which leads to breathlessness and cough.”

Post-Covid lung fibrosis stiffens lung tissues and makes it harder for the patient to breathe properly, sometimes requiring oxygen support.

Dr Dhooria added, “An increasing number of patients with the PGI is reporting symptoms of breathlessness and fatigue after Covid. Some of them have also reported lung fibrosis and we are providing them care through consultation. Patients who develop lung fibrosis may develop shortness of breath for a long time. Hence, it is important to identify such patients and treat early. Around two in 10 hospitalised patients on oxygen may develop this complication.”

“Correct management during acute Covid illness is important. The exact factors are unknown. Patients who show signs of post-Covid diffuse lung disease (lung fibrosis) might need prolonged treatment with certain drugs such as steroids and antifibrotic medicines,” said Dr Dhooria.

Dr Amit Mandal, Director, Pulmonology, Sleep and Critical Care, Fortis Hospital, Mohali, said, “We have seen patients complaining of body aches, lethargy, breathlessness and inability to perform a certain task at the same level at which the body used to perform. These are the most common post-Covid symptoms. Any viral illness triggers some weakness in which patients experience a lack of energy. If someone is used to working an entire day, the person may not be able to work after an hour post-Covid.”

Dr Mandal said, “Some of our patients who had severe lung involvement during the Covid-19 illness are now dealing with lung fibrosis. Such patients are going with additional oxygen support to their homes. Patients who are diabetic are facing fluctuating blood sugar levels after discharge. This is so because Covid-19 patients are required to be treated with steroids. These medications are stepped down gradually over a period of time. With stepping down of steroids, blood sugar levels also fluctuate. “We have been so overworked with the pandemic that managing post-Covid care has been a challenge across the country. We are trying to call our patients after three weeks for a follow-up,” added Dr Mandal.

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