As of this month, nearly 250 million people around the world have recovered from Covid-19. But here the word “cured” refers only to the acute phase of the disease. Between 10 and 40 percent of Covid patients continue to show symptoms weeks to months after becoming ill, a nebulous condition now referred to as the post-Covid condition, or long Covid.
In the long Covid, we are witnessing the emergence of a new legitimate disease, officially recognized by the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization. Because it is difficult to diagnose and treat, yet, for a long time, Covid has also become a subject of contention between people who suffer from it and the health professionals responsible for treating them. Longtime Covid patients have described feeling rejected and ‘gasified’ by doctors who seem to question their illness – or seem unsure of what to do about it.
Understandably, then, many long-time Covid sufferers have turned to patient support and advocacy groups for solutions. As physicians ourselves, we know that patient groups can provide the social and emotional support they need, especially those patients who feel alienated and ignored by healthcare professionals. But we also know they can be cauldrons of disinformation – and feeding grounds for snake oil vendors who peddle unproven cures. And it is therefore essential that patients and healthcare professionals find ways to work with each other rather than against each other in order to find solutions to long Covid. Otherwise, the problem is doomed to go from bad to worse.
Symptoms of Long Covid
The task is made difficult by the fact that we know so little about the long Covid. Although the disease is frequently marked by symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, muscle pain and “brain fog”, laboratory tests and physical examinations of long Covid patients may not show anything abnormal. Suddenly, the Covid has long made comparisons with so-called contested diseases, such as myalgic encephalomyelitis (also called chronic fatigue syndrome) and fibromyalgia, the legitimacy of which is questioned by the medical profession. There is even some evidence that some cases of Long Covid can be caused by something other than Covid-19. A recent study found that patients who believed they had been infected with Covid-19 – but had not confirmed this status with tests – tended to report Following Longer Covid symptoms than patients who have been confirmed by blood tests to have actually had Covid-19.
Collectively, this doubt and ambiguity has contributed to a potentially adversarial relationship between physicians and patients. Headlines like that of a recent article in The Atlantic, “Long-haulers Fight for Their Future,” only added to the combative tone.
But it would be unfair to say that the medical community has ruled out Covid entirely for a long time. Substantial efforts and funding are now devoted to long research on the Covid. The National Institutes of Health have announced more than $ 1 billion in new funding for a program that will, among other things, track a cohort of Covid-19 patients over time to track the evolution of long symptoms of Covid and hopefully it, elucidate the biology of the state. Similar research efforts are also being made in other countries. Over time, these efforts will help us better understand the characteristics of long Covid and develop best practices to address it.
Misinformation and long covid
For now, however, the disease remains shrouded in unknowns, and there are legitimate concerns that misinformation may fill in the gaps – as is apparently the case with almost everything to do with Covid-19 until here. Already, we have personally seen pseudo-scientific groups claiming, without evidence, to have knowledge of how to deal with the long Covid. We’ve seen discussions of unproven treatments like extreme diets and ivermectin appear frequently on lengthy Covid social media forums. Misinformation seems to spread almost as fast as the disease itself.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to bridge the emerging divide between longtime Covid patients and healthcare professionals – hopefully in time to stop the wave of disinformation before it reaches its peak. .
First, the healthcare profession will need to make a concerted effort to communicate new findings and developments regarding the long Covid to the public. As research progresses, there will be a constant flow of new information about this disease, its epidemiology, and how best to treat it. It is imperative that clinicians, patients and journalists have access to up-to-date and accurate scientific information on the long-term Covid as it emerges. At the same time, it will be important to identify and counter the lengthy disinformation of Covid. We recommend an infodemiology model, in which community members trained in effective communication skills engage in discussions on patient forums to contextualize new findings and help correct misconceptions before they arise. ‘root.
Second, doctors can treat symptoms of the long Covid, even when they are unable to make a concrete diagnosis of the disease. Some long-term Covid patients, for example, describe numbness and tingling in the hands or feet – a condition that may respond to appropriate medication. Brain fog and cognitive difficulties can be treated in some patients with cognitive therapy approaches. Depression, another important long symptom of Covid, can be treated with psychotherapy or antidepressant medications, whether or not the underlying cause is a coronavirus infection. (In a recent New York Times essay, doctors Adam Gaffney and Zackary Berger stressed the importance of treating symptoms of long Covid, even when the causes may be difficult to identify.)
Public health and specialist companies can help physicians in these efforts by providing guidance and training to safely treat long symptoms of Covid in the face of uncertainty – and to help patients manage mental health issues. (It should be noted that the French government has already issued diagnostic and treatment guidelines for the long Covid.)
But perhaps more importantly, doctors can listen to their patients and show empathy. Sometimes health professionals can get so caught up in objective diagnostic criteria that they lose the forest for the trees. The “do no harm first” culture can actually hurt when it lets people suffer until a diagnosis can be made. Although the diagnosis is uncertain, recognizing the reality of a patient’s symptoms – and the potential for those symptoms to cause significant pain and suffering – is likely to offer some therapeutic relief. Ensuring that patients feel heard, understood and validated can greatly reassure them that healthcare professionals are their allies, not their adversaries, in the effort to resolve the long Covid.
Having a chronic illness is frustrating. People suffering from a long Covid are right to feel impatient with what is, in many ways, a failing medical system. But it wouldn’t help anyone if millions of people with long Covid adventures initiate unproven and potentially dangerous interventions. And there is no point in pitting doctors against patients. Covid-19 has already sowed harmful division and polarization in our society. We shouldn’t let Covid do the same for long.
This article originally appeared on Undark. Read the original article.