Yale study finds the cause of exercise intolerance in long COVID patients

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In a significant study from Yale University, researchers have made strides in understanding a puzzling symptom of long COVID: exercise intolerance.

Published in ERJ Open Research, this study offers insights that could be a game-changer for patients struggling with this condition and guide future research directions.

Exercise intolerance, or the difficulty in performing physical activities at expected levels, is a common complaint among long COVID patients.

Typically, when patients report symptoms like shortness of breath during exercise, doctors turn to tests like CT scans or echocardiograms to check if the issue lies in the heart or lungs. However, many long COVID patients show no abnormalities in these areas.

Yale researchers took a more advanced approach called the invasive cardiopulmonary exercise test (iCPET). This test involves inserting catheters into the pulmonary artery and an artery in the wrist to measure the body’s response to exercise in real-time.

Fifty-five patients with post-COVID exercise intolerance underwent this advanced testing, including 41 who showed no heart or lung limitations in initial assessments.

The findings were enlightening. The team discovered that these patients had a compromised ability to extract oxygen in their body tissues, despite having adequately oxygenated blood from normal heart and lung functions.

This discovery is crucial as it contradicts earlier beliefs that post-COVID exercise intolerance was due to deconditioning, or a decline in physical fitness.

Instead, the study points to a physiological abnormality at the root of these symptoms. The team emphasized that this finding dispels myths around the condition and underscores that there’s a real, measurable physiological issue in play.

The study also holds significance for patients seeking validation for their symptoms. Joseph noted that for many, just knowing there’s a real issue provides relief.

However, treatment options are currently limited. High-dose vitamins and pyridostigmine, a medication for muscle weakness, are available but haven’t been specifically tested for post-COVID exercise intolerance.

The iCPET, while informative, is invasive and not widely available. The researchers hope their findings will pave the way for less invasive testing methods and spur the development of targeted treatments.

In summary, this Yale study is a breakthrough in understanding the mysterious exercise intolerance experienced by many long COVID patients.

It not only provides a starting point for mechanistic insights into the condition but also opens up avenues for future research into less invasive diagnostic tests and effective treatments.

This research offers hope and direction to those grappling with the long-term effects of COVID-19.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination, and how diets could help manage post-COVID syndrome.

For more health information, please see recent studies about COVID infection and vaccination linked to heart disease, and results showing extracts from two wild plants can inhibit COVID-19 virus.

The research findings can be found in ERJ Open Research.

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