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Two coronavirus side effects that might never go away

Published Oct 30th, 2020 1:08PM EDT
Coronavirus Symptoms
Image: Maria Sbytova/Adobe

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  • Surviving a novel coronavirus infection doesn’t mean everything will go back to normal for many COVID-19 patients who will continue to suffer from ongoing “Long COVID” symptoms.
  • A series of recent studies identified COVID-19 side effects that might never go away, as well as one annoying coronavirus symptom that can linger for weeks after an infection is cleared.
  • Doctors have found cases where coronavirus survivors developed abnormalities in the frontal lobe of the brain, as well as patients who lost hearing in one ear. Other people might experience ongoing dermatological issues that can take several weeks to clear.

Coronavirus figures have been plastered all over the news for months, and they’re only going higher as the virus continues to infect record numbers of people. Nearly 45.4 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 worldwide as of Friday morning, and almost 1.2 million people lost their lives due to COVID-19 complications. But there are at least two incredibly misleading details in those figures. First of all, the number of COVID-19 infections is significantly higher. Millions of people who catch the virus are never tested. Secondly, the stats divide patients into two categories: fatalities and survivors. The reality is that there’s also a gray area that the numbers do not address.

Some people who clear the virus end up with chronic symptoms that can take months to go away. This “Long COVID” condition has been widely detailed in reports. There may be millions of people dealing with long-term coronavirus side effects, and it turns out that some of these problems might never go away.

A report in Yahoo News Canada covers three permanent side-effects of coronavirus “that are pretty creepy.” But it turns out that only two of them are actually permanent, while the third one is just annoying.

Skin lesions

Some COVID-19 survivors continue to exhibit dermatological symptoms after the infection has cleared. Skin lesions are among the unusual COVID-19 symptoms that have been observed for months. But researchers say the symptoms can linger for several weeks before subsiding. A massive study looked at almost 1,000 cases of patients with skin manifestations worldwide, according to News-Medical. The scientists defined long haulers as COVID-19 patients who showed skin symptoms for at least 60 days. The study also explains the various skin issues that might appear with COVID-19:

  • Rash-like morbilliform eruptions — median 7 days, maximum of 28 days in lab-confirmed patients
  • Urticarial eruptions — median 4 days, maximum of 28 days in lab-confirmed patients
  • Papulosquamous eruptions (scaly papules and plaques) — median 20 days, maximum of 70 days in lab-confirmed patients
  • Pernio/chilblains (redness and swelling of the feet and hands, or “COVID toes”) — median 15 days (suspected patients), median of 10 days (lab-confirmed patients), over 130 days for some confirmed patients

Thankfully, all of these symptoms tend to clear up after a period of time.

Sudden hearing loss

The aforementioned skin issues can and will most likely disappear. But some COVID-19 patients can develop two other types of side-effects that might be permanent.

One of them is a symptom that was detailed before and comes in two versions. One is just ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and it might go away after therapy. But the virus can also lead to permanent hearing loss that can’t be healed.

A BMJ report details the case of a 45-year-old patient in the UK who was admitted to the hospital after COVID-19 symptoms that persisted for 10 days. He spent 30 days on a ventilator and developed other complications as a result. He was treated with remdesivir, steroids, and a blood transfusion, and then he started getting better. It was a week after he left the ICU that he noticed ringing in one ear, and the sudden hearing loss followed.

The man’s only preexisting medical condition was asthma. It’s unclear what causes the complication.

Abnormalities in the frontal lobe of the brain

Perhaps the most disturbing side-effects of COVID-19 concerns the brain. Scientists from the Baylor College of Medicine looked at data from 80 studies and found that more than 600 patients developed some abnormalities in the brain’s frontal love. These issues came to light upon the inspection of electroencephalogram (EEG) tests. EEGs are usually given “if altered mentation is noted, meaning a patient might have a slowed reaction to stimuli, followed by seizure-like events, speech issues, confusion or inability to wake up after sedation.”

The researchers explain that the “most common findings from the EEG were slowing or abnormal electrical discharge, mostly in the frontal lobe.” Some of the EEG tests indicated damage that might not be repairable.

“As we know, the brain is an organ that cannot regenerate, so if you have any damage it will more than likely be permanent or you will not fully recover,” Baylor professor of neurology/neurophysiology Dr. Zulfi Haneef said. The scientists speculate that the likely entry point of the virus might be the nose, which could explain the location of the brain’s abnormal activity zone.

“Another interesting observation was that the average age of those affected was 61, one-third were female, and two-thirds were males,” the doctor said. “This suggests that brain involvement in COVID-19 could be more common in older males. More research is needed, but these findings show us these are areas to focus on as we move forward.”

Haneef continued, “A lot of people think they will get the illness, get well, and everything will go back to normal, but these findings tell us that there might be long-term issues, which is something we have suspected, and now we are finding more evidence to back that up.” This is of course another great incentive to take every precaution to avoid catching COVID-19.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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