As we near the end of special education month, dedicated to advocacy and activism, we’d like to shed light on Long COVID Awareness. Specifically, we aim to explore the intersection between pulmonary fibrosis (PF) and long COVID – two conditions that not only share respiratory challenges but also have the potential for interconnected health outcomes.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the connections between these two conditions, emphasizing the shared symptoms and the significant concern that individuals recovering from long COVID may face an increased risk of developing PF.

What is long COVID?

What’s commonly called “long COVID” is clinically termed “post-acute sequelae of COVID-19.” No matter what you call it, it’s a condition that can occur after contracting COVID-19 and can last for a short period (weeks) or a much longer period (years or longer). While much remains to be understood about exact causes or cures, the potential symptoms are well-documented. People with long COVID have reported chronic pain, brain fog, fatigue, shortness of breath, depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and more.

What are the differences and similarities between PF and long COVID?

  • Both long COVID and pulmonary fibrosis can have profound effects on the respiratory system. Long COVID often presents with lingering respiratory symptoms, while pulmonary fibrosis is characterized by progressive scarring of lung tissue, leading to impaired lung function.
  • Shared symptoms include persistent shortness of breath, chronic cough, fatigue, and reduced quality of life. Individuals with long COVID may experience respiratory issues that mirror those seen in pulmonary fibrosis patients.
  • Both conditions involve an inflammatory response in the body. In long COVID, it’s likely to be labeled a prolonged immune response to the initial COVID exposure. In pulmonary fibrosis, chronic inflammation contributes to the scarring of lung tissue – but the cause itself can be unique from person to person. PF can result from occupational exposures, environmental exposures, medication or chemotherapy side effects, genetics, or a variety of other factors. Its cause can even be entirely unknown, or ‘idiopathic.’

Who can contract long COVID?

It’s difficult to estimate how many people have long COVID, given the challenges of accurately tracking individual COVID cases, the difficulty of identifying long COVID symptoms or differentiating them from other pre-existing health concerns, and the ambiguity of the diagnostic journey. One study claims that 65 million people worldwide have long COVID, while others report that the number is much higher. 

People with PF are immune-compromised and therefore at a greater risk of COVID leaving significant damage to their health. In our community, we have heard from many individuals who already had a PF diagnosis when they contracted COVID and noticed the long COVID symptoms either lingering or resurfacing after their COVID recovery. 

Notably, we have also heard from individuals who didn’t have a PF diagnosis until after contracting COVID and experiencing long COVID concerns. In other words, they came down with COVID and then, as part of their long COVID battle, experienced lung scarring, difficulty breathing, and other challenges characteristic of PF.

Can you develop pulmonary fibrosis as a result of long COVID?

Recent studies suggest a concerning association between long COVID and an increased risk of developing pulmonary fibrosis. The lingering and intense inflammatory response seen in long COVID may contribute to fibrotic changes in the lungs and ultimately a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis. That being said, the overlap in symptoms between long COVID and pulmonary fibrosis can pose diagnostic challenges. Accurate and timely diagnosis is crucial.

What should you do if you suspect you have long COVID, or PF as a result of it?

Individuals experiencing lingering respiratory symptoms post-COVID, particularly those at risk for PF, should seek medical attention. Supportive care, including pulmonary rehabilitation, can be beneficial in managing symptoms and improving overall lung health.It can be helpful to track your symptoms and search through published research before discussing this matter with your doctor. As this is a relatively new condition, not all healthcare practitioners are aware of it, and even those familiar might not know the next steps for treatment.

What can you do to spread the word about Long COVID Awareness Day?

March 15th is widely recognized as Long Covid Awareness Day. Visit our social media to discover local resources, advocacy toolkits, and inspiring stories of folks who launched long COVID activism projects in their communities. Please also share this blog post with others you know, sign up for support group, and visit our forum for stories of individuals who have or are impacted by long COVID and PF. Increasing awareness about the connection between long COVID and the potential development of pulmonary fibrosis is essential for both healthcare professionals and the general public. 

Similarly, collaborative efforts between researchers, healthcare providers, and patient advocacy groups are crucial for understanding the long-term impacts of both conditions. Check out our research and stay tuned for updates in the coming months! In the meantime, consider donating or volunteering to support our cause. Funding and support for research initiatives can drive advancements in treatment and care, particularly in the context of the potential link between long COVID and pulmonary fibrosis.

On Long COVID Awareness Day, let’s recognize the intersection between long COVID and pulmonary fibrosis, with a particular emphasis on the concerning possibility that individuals recovering from long COVID may be at an increased risk of developing PF. By fostering awareness, supporting ongoing research, and promoting collaboration, we can better understand the connections between these conditions and work towards comprehensive solutions that improve the lives of those affected. Together, we can build a future where respiratory health is prioritized, and individuals with conditions like long COVID and pulmonary fibrosis receive the care and support they need.

Stay In Touch

PF NOW! hosts virtual support groups on Teams multiple times each month. Not only will you strengthen your network of connections but you’ll learn firsthand how those with PF best look after themselves. PF NOW! also has a Facebook group whose active community shares their PF journey and their tips with others. New to online support groups? Download our free step-by-step guide for online advocacy here.

Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information received from us.

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