“We’re dealing with silos,” said Dr. Mylonakis. “Every time we have a transfer, something is lost. The patient is losing and that can worsen their other long-term Covid symptoms. “
For example, “If I’m an endocrinologist, I’m going to examine blood sugar, I’m not going to examine the other 14 systems,” he said. “But the problem with blood sugar may be that this person is so weak and foggy that they can’t go to the grocery store and get healthy food, so they’ll order pizza.”
Dr. Mylonakis said the uniformity of the Veterans system could improve coordination of care and the sharing of patient information between specialists. For patients outside of this system, frustration and confusion can lead to significant stress, which makes their symptoms worse.
Nevertheless, the complexity of long-term Covid can also be clearly felt in the Veterans system.
“I have patients who get out of bed for 10 minutes to make a salad and they cannot eat it because they are so exhausted and so tired when they make a small salad,” said Dr. Al-Aly.
Research showed that Covid survivors were also more likely to take a spectrum of medications for their emerging health problems, including opioids, of which Dr. Al-Aly said they are worrying because it could indicate another wave of opioid addiction problems in the future.
Dr. Al-Aly and his co-authors Yan Xie and Benjamin Bowe, both at Washington University in St. Louis, also analyzed records of 13,654 patients hospitalized for their initial coronavirus infection. Unsurprisingly, the sickest patients – those in need of intensive care – were at greatest risk for long-term complications, followed by those hospitalized on regular wards, followed by those who were never hospitalized.
Nonetheless, virtually every category of symptom – from chest pain to shortness of breath to diabetes to muscle weakness – has been experienced by at least some people who have never been admitted to the hospital.