A close-up photo of a person wearing a facemask.

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Many people who get COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms that disappear in a few weeks. But some people, however, continue to have symptoms for many weeks or months after first recovering from the disease. These long-term effects of COVID  can occur in people who had mild, moderate, or serious disease. People at higher risk for long-term symptoms are those with high blood pressure, obesity, or mental health conditions.

But even people without any previous health problems have developed long-term symptoms.

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Common Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

Scientists are working to learn more about these long-term effects, including how long they last and how they affect people. It’s not clear how many people experience long-term COVID-19 effects, but they can occur in people of all ages.

These are the most common symptoms reported by people with long-term effects:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Joint pain
  • Chest or abdominal pain

Some people also experience the following long-term effects:

  • Having trouble thinking or concentrating, like a “brain fog”
  • Depression
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Occasional fevers
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

Less Common Long-Term Symptoms from COVID-19

As doctors have learned more about COVID-19, they have discovered the disease affects multiple organ systems besides the lungs. Though it’s not common, some people have experienced the following serious long-term symptoms:

  • Inflammation (swelling) of the heart
  • Serious kidney injury
  • Skin rash
  • Hair loss
  • Long-term loss of taste and smell
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Serious difficulty with concentration and memory
  • Severe depression, anxiety, or mood changes

Doctors are still trying to understand the reasons why some people experience symptoms that do not go away for months. Some suspect it has to do with damage the disease causes to the body’s organ systems during the initial infection. But it’s still not clear why some people have long-term symptoms and others don’t, or how long those symptoms might last.

It does appear that some people who experience long-term symptoms gradually get better. For example, one study found that 88% of hospitalized patients had lung damage six weeks after they left the hospital. But 12 weeks after their hospital discharge, that dropped to 56% of people with visible lung damage.

Researchers are continuing to study people who have recovered from COVID-19, whether they continue to have long-term symptoms or not.

Some research suggest a COVID-19 infection could increase the long-term risk of the following conditions:

  • Heart failure or heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Blood clots in the lungs
  • Lung failure
  • Cognitive decline (poor memory and thinking ability)
  • Anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Sleeping problems
  • Muscle and joint pain

If you have recovered from COVID-19 but are still experiencing fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle aches, or other problems, tell your doctor.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.