Is Lung Damage Permanent After COVID-19?

Over the last 18 months, the pandemic has raised an unprecedented amount of questions. Scientists and medical experts have dove in to provide answers, analyzing data about the disease and how it affects our bodies, both short- and long-term. One topic that’s continuously been part of the conversation involves lung health, and more specifically, whether COVID survivors suffer permanent lung damage after COVID-19.

As more information and data becomes available about the Coronavirus, we’re beginning to get a clearer understanding. 

What happens to your lungs when you have COVID-19?

There’s no question: COVID-19 is certainly rough on the lungs for many patients. Lung complications ranging from pneumonia to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) have been among the lung diseases caused by the coronavirus. While people often have a full recovery from pneumonia, those who survive ARDS may experience permanent pulmonary scarring. 

In severe cases, sepsis, which is when an infection reaches and spreads throughout the bloodstream, can be the result of a COVID-19 case. Patients who survive the infection often have lifelong damage to their lungs, or even other organs.

What’s a superinfection?

A lung superinfection is when a patient suffers from more than one infection, especially if the illness is resistant to antibiotics or lung infection treatment due to the earlier case. This can be found in cases of COVID-19 because the immune system exhausts itself as it fights the invading Coronavirus, leaving the body prone to additional bacterium or viruses. The additional infection can lead to increased lung damage, in many cases. 

Is the lung damage from COVID-19 permanent?

In a recent study, scientists studied COVID-19 data for asymptomatic, moderate and even severe infections who underwent unrelated elective lung operations sometime after recovering from COVID. In the patients studied, they did not find a direct link between COVID-19 and lung damage present in their benign lung tissue. 

The end result was that for those who test positive for COVID-19, if you completely recover, it’s likely that your lung tissue has healed as well. 

So, if you had COVID-19, your lungs may have been in distress during the active infection. However, most likely, you won’t suffer from long-lasting respiratory damage from COVID-19.

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