Kidney issues linked to ‘long COVID-19,’ study finds

A new study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, suggests that COVID-19 patients could experience kidney issues months after recovering from the initial infection. 

Researchers studied records from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and examined 89,216 people who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 1, 2020, and March 15, 2020, and 1,726,683 people who didn’t contract the virus. 

The COVID-19 patients were examined 30 days after initially contracting the virus. 

Results showed after 30 days, many COVID-19 survivors exhibited increased risks of acute kidney infection and kidney failure, with the risk increasing with the severity of the disease. 

Researchers said the country could see more COVID-19 patients with long-term symptoms.

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"The numbers of people with long COVID in need of post COVID care will likely be staggering and will present substantial strain on already overwhelmed health systems," the study’s authors said. "The higher risks of adverse kidney outcomes reported in this study highlights the need for integration of kidney care as a component of the multidisciplinary post-acute COVID care."

However, researchers did point out the study’s limitations, saying the patients were mostly older, White males.

Meanwhile, health officials are still studying the long-term effects of a COVID-19 infection.

A recent study published on July 15 in the medical journal Lancet found more than 200 symptoms affecting 10 organ systems associated with the novel coronavirus. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most people recover from COVID-19 after two weeks, the 3,762 respondents of the Lancet study took longer than 35 weeks on average to recover from the virus.

RELATED: ‘Long COVID-19’: Study finds more than 200 symptoms associated with virus

Researchers said fatigue was the most common symptom, in some cases lasting up to six months. Cognitive dysfunction and post-exertional malaise — the worsening of symptoms following minor physical or mental exertion — were also among the most commonly observed symptoms.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents reported a decline in cognitive dysfunction or memory issues.

According to the CDC, the most commonly reported long-term symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain

Other reported long-term symptoms include:

  • Difficulty with thinking and concentration (sometimes referred to as "brain fog")
  • Depression
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Intermittent fever
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

More serious long-term complications appear to be less common but have been reported. These have been noted to affect different organ systems in the body. These include:

  • Cardiovascular: inflammation of the heart muscle
  • Respiratory: lung function abnormalities
  • Renal: acute kidney injury
  • Dermatologic: rash, hair loss
  • Neurological: smell and taste problems, sleep issues, difficulty with concentration, memory problems
  • Psychiatric: depression, anxiety, changes in mood

The CDC said, "While most persons with COVID-19 recover and return to normal health, some patients can have symptoms that can last for weeks or even months after recovery from acute illness."

Austin Williams contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.