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Expert tells RTE’s Claire Byrne of the ‘warning message’ they’re seeing in patients with long Covid

By Rebecca Daly

One expert has revealed a “warning message” that they are seeing in patients who are experiencing long Covid.

Those working in the area thought they would see issues with people’s hearts and lungs, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Dr Jack Lambert, a consultant in Infectious diseases at the Matter Hospital, joined RTE’s Today with Claire Byrne to talk about the impact long Covid is having on many people across the country.

Read more: Stephen Donnelly seeks 'immediate' payment of Covid pandemic bonus to frontline healthcare workers

Those researching long Covid were noticing that most of the problems lay with other organs such as the brain, rather than the heart or lungs.

“When Covid first struck, the patients ending up in the hospital were getting lung disease, or heart disease but after they leave the hospital, the lungs all heal, the heart heals,” Lambert said.

“There seems to be some kind of a post-infectious inflation in the brain, like post-viral meningitis-type symptoms that are going on for, in some cases now, years and years.

“The thing that people are left with if they don't resolve their Covid infection is symptoms of fatigue, decreased concentration, pains, neurological issues, headaches, shortness of breath and then psychiatric problems too, depression.”

Through working alongside GPs and others in the field, a picture was pieced together on how long Covid was actually affecting people.

Questionnaires by GPs found that 18% of those with long Covid had depression a year after their initial infection, 13% had moderate to severe anxiety and 21% had PTSD.

However, a frightening statistic from the research was that 72% of these patients were coping with long Covid by increasing their alcohol intake.

Lambert described these figures as “scary” and said: “It’s just a warning message. We thought it was going to be heart and lungs."

Services that deal with these problems “need” to be established, according to Lambert.

He said: “We need to address those issues and it doesn't need to just be dealt with at these centres of excellence because people all over the country have been infected.

“We need to liaise with our GPs. We need to provide them with support, services and guidance on how to manage these patients so they don’t have to all traipse down to Dublin for the long Covid follow up.”

He has seen people have a number of different scans in other to diagnose some form of long Covid, without anything showing up. These people are then “not being offered any kind of support”.

“The support and therapy people need is neurorehabilitation. It’s not lung function that’s the problem. It’s the brain, they still have an inflamed brain.

“That is causing the concentration problems, the headaches, the energy problems, the sleep disturbances, the personality changes. We need psychiatric support, psychological support, all the counselling support as outlined by the data that came from my GP colleagues.

“These are people that weren’t previously depressed. These are people that weren’t previously anxious. There’s something going on there. We need to target that population.”

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Dive Deeper:
Mum who thought she had dementia for 29 years discovers she has Lyme disease
Mum-of-three Pauline Bowie, 54, suffered brain fog, headaches, muscle pain, carpal tunnel, and was even wetting herself after being bitten…
Long COVID symptoms: Post coronavirus sickness can continue for 2 yrs. Check these signs
The study shows long Covid symptoms recover with time. After six months, 68% of study participants reported at least one…
Half of patients hospitalised with Covid have symptoms after two years, study shows
Wuhan research reveals effects of long Covid, with 31% reporting sleep difficulties
Half of Covid-hospitalised still symptomatic two years on, study finds
Research on Wuhan patients reveals effects of long Covid, with 11% still not having returned to work
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Boy labelled 'attention seeking' actually had aggressive brain tumour
Arthur's parents said they were dismissed by doctors who told them to 'keep an eye on him'
Parkinson's symptom which can be heard before tremors begin
Parkinson’s physical symptoms such as tremors and stiffness are perhaps the most obvious signs but there is another one less…
Get all your news in one place