February 01, 2021

COVID-19 has lasting effects on the heart, brain and lungs

Most people know how seriously COVID-19 can affect those who have it — from pneumonia-like respiratory symptoms to death. But new reports show that some people also experience complications for weeks and months after their initial illness.

Older adults sometimes experience heart failure after COVID-19, especially those with preexisting cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure. Inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) has been linked to COVID-19 in both younger and older people. Persistent breathing problems sometimes occur in people of all ages. Brain-related problems, including trouble with thinking or "brain fog," strokes, seizures, and Guillain-Barre syndrome — a rare autoimmune disorder causing temporary paralysis — also have occurred in people recovering from COVID-19. Other issues have included blood clots, fatigue, mood disorders, and ongoing coughing and wheezing.

Mayo Clinic experts say that, although more study is needed to fully understand long-term outcomes, the new findings are a reminder of how seriously people should regard COVID-19. Take appropriate precautions, including wearing face masks when around others, limiting contact, keeping a safe social distance and washing hands regularly. In addition, be sure you are up to date on recommended vaccines, such as the annual influenza vaccine. If you've had the virus, monitor symptoms closely and connect with your health care team if there are ongoing symptoms or if new, concerning changes occur. Programs are being developed to address the needs of people with ongoing health problems related to COVID-19, including at Mayo Clinic.