By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Researchers in Sweden have observed rapid heart rate and dizziness, symptoms consistent with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), in patients who contracted COVID-19 more than three months ago or longer, defined as “long-haulers.”

In a recently published paper, the authors explained how they studied three patients, all of whom experienced COVID-19-like symptoms in spring 2020, but not all underwent testing or sought further treatment at that time. Months later, each patient reported nausea, extreme fatigue, dizziness, and headache, all symptoms usually tied to POTS. Sure enough, using active standing and head-up tilt tests, researchers confirmed POTS in all three patients.

There is not much standard care or treatment protocols for POTS, but the authors noted the syndrome has been connected to viral illnesses. Thus, the authors suggested adding POTS to the list of complications to monitor in post-COVID-19 patients.

“As reports of COVID-19 patients being impacted by long-term symptoms unrelated to their original diagnosis continue to grow, it’s important to raise awareness of POTS as a possible long-term complication,” said Madeleine Johansson, MD, PhD, department of clinical sciences, Lund University, and one of the lead authors of the case report. “Much remains unknown about the specific mechanisms responsible for the POTS-like symptoms in post-COVID-19 patients or how long these symptoms will last, but chronic symptoms are expected in a subset of patients based on this initial clinical experience.”

Groups like the CDC and the World Health Organization have tabulated the many symptoms associated with COVID-19, including those that persist in long-haul patients, including the expected (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) to the unusual or unexpected (e.g., loss of taste or smell).

Not only are all the viral after-effects uncertain, nobody can say for sure how long these symptoms last or when patients might fully recover, if ever, as reported in the April issue of Hospital Employee Health (HEH). Natalie Lambert, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Indiana University, tells HEH she and colleagues will publish a paper on this subject soon, based on case reports, patient interviews, and surveys.

The accelerating pace of the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine includes good news for those who are recovering from COVID-19. A group called Survivor Corps, a support organization formed by and for COVID-19 survivors, launched a Facebook poll, asking survivors to share what happened after they received the vaccine. Of 413 votes, 177 indicated “my long-term COVID symptoms have improved slightly since I got the vaccine.”

Expect more research on how the COVID-19 vaccine affects the immune system of survivors and those who never contracted the virus alike. Meanwhile, for all the latest Relias Media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, please click here.