COVID-19 is normally associated with the lungs and respiratory system. Most people think of symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath when they think of COVID-19. However, COVID-19 can impact the entire body and cause a wide range of symptoms and complications.
Strokes, a vascular system condition, are among the most common complications for people hospitalized with severe COVID-19. This led many researchers to question if COVID-19 is a vascular disease with respiratory symptoms.
Like so many things about COVID-19, we’re still not 100 percent certain of the answer to that question. However, the latest research shows that the vascular symptoms of COVID-19 are caused by inflammation and not COVID-19.
This means COVID-19 is still considered a respiratory disease, but it can have serious effects on the vascular system. Read on to learn more.
Medical professionals and researchers have been studying the link between COVID-19 and vascular symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic. They have learned that people with severe COVID-19 are at a risk of strokes, blood clots, and other vascular complications.
These observations led to several hypotheses that COVID-19 was a vascular disease with respiratory symptoms and not a respiratory disease.
Studies in 2020Trusted Source and 2021 supported this theory. These studies concluded that although people with mild to moderate COVID-19 only had respiratory symptoms, COVID-19 was primarily a vascular disease. However, additional studies published later in 2021Trusted Source and into 2022Trusted Source have contraindicated these findings. New studies indicate that COVID-19 doesn’t attack the vascular system at all.
Instead, these studies found that strokes and other vascular complications occur when infected respiratory cells cause extreme inflammation in other parts of your body.
This means that the virus itself isn’t attacking the lining of blood vessels; the blood vessel damage is coming from your immune system trying to attack those cells as they travel through your body. When your immune system over-responds to infected cells or if your blood vessels were already weak or damaged, it can lead to clotsTrusted Source and other vascular complications.
Many people who are hospitalized for COVID-19 are at increased risk of vascular complications. Knowing that these complications are part of an inflammatory immune system response can help doctors lower the risk of stroke and other serious vascular complications.
For example, people with SARS-CoV-2 infections who are at risk of vascular complications may be given blood thinners to help lower their risk. Doctors, medical researchers, and other professionals might also look for ways to lower inflammation while still helping the body fight COVID-19.
Understanding how COVID-19 affects the vascular system can also help researchers identify people who are most at risk of vascular complications, leading to targeted treatments and better outcomes.
Like many things related to COVID-19, more research about this connection still needs to be done.
COVID-19 is known to have both short-term and long-term symptoms and complications. Some of these symptoms are respiratory and sensory. For instance, you might’ve read articles about people who lost their sense of smell for months following the development of COVID-19.
There are also long-term complications and symptoms associated with the vascular symptom. Not everyone will have these symptoms, but studying them has been an important part of researchers understanding how COVID-19 affects the vascular system.
Long-term vascular complications of COVID-19 include:
- inflammatory heart diseases
- heart failure
- coronary artery disease
- pulmonary embolism
- deep vein thrombosis
In studies, heart failure and arrhythmias were the most common vascular complications of COVID-19. However, the data on complications from COVID-19 is still very new.
People who have recovered from COVID-19 have only been observed for a year or two. What we know about vascular and other complications might change in the years to come as the first people who recovered from COVID-19 are observed for longer.
Additionally, new COVID-19 treatments might drastically change what complications look like for future SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Can COVID-19 damage organs?
Yes. COVID-19 can cause serious organ damage. Your lungs, liver, kidneys, brain, and heart can all be damaged by COVID-19.
Which organ is most often affected by COVID-19?
The lungs are the organs most affected by COVID-19. COVID-19 can irritate the lining of your lungs, cause inflammation in your lungs, cause your lungs to fill with fluid, and can cause damage to the lining of your lungs.
Not everyone who gets COVID-19 will experience lung damage. For many people, COVID-19 presents as a mild respiratory infection, but severe COVID-19 can lead to organ damage and even death.
Does COVID-19 damage your heart?
COVID-19 can cause damage to multiple organs, including damage to your heart. People who’ve recovered from severe COVID-19 are at an increased risk of heart complications. This indicates a strong link between COVID-19 and heart health.
Additionally, there’s evidence that people who already have heart conditions are at risk of more serious symptoms if they do develop COVID-19.
Since the early days of the pandemic, researchers have noticed that a large number of people hospitalized with severe COVID-19 had strokes, blood clots, and other vascular complications. This led to theories and studies about the link between COVID-19 and the vascular system.
Currently, researchers believe that the immune system attacks infected respiratory cells as they travel through the rest of the body. This response can sometimes cause significant inflammation, damage the lining of your blood vessels, and lead to blood clots.
More research still needs to be done on this topic, but what we now know is already helping doctors lower the risk of stroke and clots for those hospitalized with severe COVID-19.