New data suggests that many patients experience long-lasting symptoms in their upper-chest for months after their initial COVID-19 infection. Chronic problems include chronic cough, thickening of the lungs (known as fibrosis, which can cause severe shortness of breath), bronchiectasis (cough that produces large amounts of mucus and shortness of breath), and pulmonary vascular disease (affecting the lung’s blood vessels). The research is complicated, as many patients admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 have other pre-existing disease. Risk factors include male gender and being older in age. Persistent respiratory problems following COVID-19 may cause future disease, and how to prevent these complications is not yet known. Current studies are trying to evaluate these complications and identify people at greatest risk. Meanwhile, a realistic approach might be to ask for a chest X-ray if you still have respiratory symptoms in the weeks after a COVID-19 infection. Your doctor should also measure your oxygen saturation. If lung problems still occur, then your doctor can refer you to a respiratory expert.
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