For all you've heard about the coronavirus, so much is still unknown—including why some of us experience certain unusual symptoms while others don't. Certain issues like shortness of breath and fever are explainable—the virus attacks the respiratory system—but others have left doctors scratching their heads on their way to the research lab. Here are some of the symptoms they can't explain—yet. If you know someone affected, share it with them so they know they're not alone, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Symptoms That Can Last for Weeks, Even Months, Maybe Forever
Initial reports claimed the coronavirus was mild for most people, lasting no more than two weeks, barring any serious complications. However, reports have since come out on NBC News, ABC News, The Atlantic and every other major media outlet about patients who have tested negative for the virus—but are still experience chest pains, body aches, fatigue and even fevers for weeks and weeks (98 symptoms in all have been reported). They have Post-COVID Syndrome. "You can see people who've recovered who really do not get back to normal that they have things that are highly suggestive of myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert. "Brain fog, fatigue, and difficulty in concentrating so this is something we really need to seriously look at."
Your Immune System Can Overreact
"One of the great mysteries of the new coronavirus is why it causes only mild disease in most people, but turns fatal for others," reports WebMD. "In many cases, it seems the worst damage may be driven by a deranged immune response to the infection, rather than the virus itself. In many of the sickest patients with COVID-19, their blood is teeming with high levels of immune system proteins called cytokines. Scientists believe these cytokines are evidence of an immune response called a cytokine storm, where the body starts to attack its own cells and tissues rather than just fighting off the virus."
"…which really means the difficulty concentrating," said Dr. Fauci on 60 Minutes. Here's more from the New York Times: "It's becoming known as Covid brain fog: troubling cognitive symptoms that can include memory loss, confusion, difficulty focusing, dizziness and grasping for everyday words. Increasingly, Covid survivors say brain fog is impairing their ability to work and function normally." 'There are thousands of people who have that,' said Dr. Igor Koralnik, chief of neuro-infectious disease at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, who has already seen hundreds of survivors at a post-Covid clinic he leads. 'The impact on the work force that's affected is going to be significant.'"
It Can Cause Kidney Damage
"Almost half the people hospitalized because of COVID-19 have blood or protein in their urine, indicating early damage to their kidneys, said Alan Kliger, a nephrologist at the Yale School of Medicine who co-chairs a task force assisting dialysis patients who have COVID-19," according to the Washington Post. If you've had previous issues with your kidneys before, contact your medical professional if you think you've contacted COVID-19.
It Can Cause Toe Lesions
Podiatrists are getting more and more calls about red and rashy toes and chilblains, purple lesions. "The lesions are emerging as yet another telltale symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. The most prominent signs are a dry cough and shortness of breath, but the virus has been linked to a string of unusual and diverse effects, like mental confusion and a diminished sense of smell," reports the New York Times. "Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing."
It May Be Connected to a Rare Disease in Children
The World Health Organization is "urgently" investigating a possible link between the virus and Kawasaki syndrome, an illness of unknown cause that primarily affects children under 5. According to the WHO, 20 children in Europe, 10 of whom tested positive for COVID-19, were showing symptoms of the syndrome—and 15 New York children, many of whom had coronavirus, were hospitalized with similar symptoms, which include "fever, rash, swelling of the hands and feet, irritation and redness of the whites of the eyes, swollen lymph glands in the neck, and irritation and inflammation of the mouth, lips, and throat," according to the CDC.
It Can Inflame Your Brain
The brain scans of certain COVID-19 patients are showing "abnormal swelling and inflammation in several regions, with smaller areas where some cells had died," reports the New York Times. This has led to "confusion, stroke and seizures in a small subset of COVID-19 patients."
"The pattern of involvement, and the way that it rapidly progressed over days, is consistent with viral inflammation of the brain," Dr. Elissa Fory, a neurologist with Henry Ford Health System, told the paper. "This may indicate the virus can invade the brain directly in rare circumstances."
Are You Experiencing a Rare Symptom?
If you are experiencing anything in this story, contact your medical professional immediately. They can try to help you—but also, your story can help inform them as they help others. "There needs to be a better understanding of the pathogenesis of the infection and resulting inflammatory response, so that knowledge can drive the development of therapeutic and preventive medications," says Richard Martinello, MD, a Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist and medical director of infection prevention at Yale New Haven Health in Yale Medicine.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.