In September 2021, I was exhausted.
My eyes became blurred. Then, my eyelids became so heavy that I couldn’t hold them for milliseconds at a time. Panicked, I stumbled over a friend about 50 yards away and fell on his shoulder. He took me to a shady place under a tree, where I floated in and out of consciousness for about two hours.
As far as I know, I was a healthy person in my late 20’s, with no known risk of major health problems. I chuck it up as a one off. But for the next few months, at an unexpected moment on a random day, I would hit a wall – lying in the position of the fetus from the tiniest to the most delicate, with a crushed headache, at the snap of a finger.
My friends and family finally persuaded me to see a doctor. After a wide array of blood tests, my diagnosis came back: severe vitamin D deficiency and some high Cholesterol According to my doctor, the two problems I had with my sedentary lifestyle since March 2020 were pretty easy to connect with – not going out or exercising as often as I did before Kovid.
Curious if I’m alone, I’ve talked to half a dozen medical specialists, from internal medicine and oncology to dermatology and podiatry. All of them said that in recent months, they have seen an improvement in health problems that are not related to the Covid-19 virus, but are still caused by the epidemic.
And some people’s experience is much worse than mine.
A long list of health problems
Many types of medical screening are discontinued when covid is infected, so some doctors today are diagnosing more advanced forms of cancer, diabetes, and other chronic conditions than pre-covid. Similar delays in treatment, and a variety of epidemic stresses have also led to further diagnoses of mood, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders.
“We’re seeing this across a broad age spectrum,” Dr. Erica Johnson, chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine’s Infectious Diseases Specialization Board, told CNBC’s Make It. “We’re seeing adolescents and children affected, and we’re seeing a lot of adults and older adults affected as well. I think that’s a real problem, and it’s unlikely to go away any time soon.”
Weight gain, stress, and moderate alcohol consumption are contributing factors to heart disease. The same weight gain is associated with long-term or permanent mobility problems such as broken leg arches and severe forms of Achilles tendonitis.
Paint-up strength in the first months of new exercise routines and epidemics can lead to stress fractures and other serious injuries. Walking barefoot all day while working from home can lead to blisters, broken toes and structural problems with ankle tendons. (I’m writing this, somewhat self-consciously, at home after socks.)
“I don’t necessarily see many more patients – but what I do see is a greater intensity. It seems to improve when patients come to me,” said Dr. Shawn Peden, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the Yale School of Medicine. “Intensity and frequency are increasing, which makes me think that these are people who are probably hurting themselves more and more because of the indirect causes of the epidemic.”
Wearing lots of masks can cause rashes on the face, acne and dryness behind the ears. Frequent hand washing and sanitizing can result in hand rashes or eczema. Even my vitamin D deficiency and high cholesterol are related to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, weak bones and immune system disorders.
It is especially uncomfortable to hear that end during a global epidemic.
This is an exhaustive list, and perhaps an incomplete one. “If, in fact, Covid leads to an increase in cancer mortality – and I think it will, it is not something we will be able to identify statistically for another year or two,” said Dr. Eric Weiner, director of Yale. “We may have better research and much more accurate statistics about what will actually happen one, two, three years from now.”
So, what can we do about it now?
Learning to live with the side effects of an epidemic
Even once the covid fades, some of the root causes will probably remain. Epidemics Stress can survive epidemics. For remote work stay here, one form or another. Wearing masks can become seasonal and doctors will probably not recommend washing your hands less.
“We need to learn how to cope with the non-viral effects of the epidemic, just as we are learning how to live with Covid in the long run,” Johnson said. In some cases, this means restarting your pre-covidance health routines. See an annual ophthalmologist and dentist again. Return to annual mammogram and routine vaccinations. Consider mental health screening on a semi-regular basis.
In other cases, you may have to make new habits. Peden, for example, recommends five to 10 minutes of hamstring and calf stretches per day, and indoor shoes for anyone who works from home. “You want it to be comfortable, but comfort is secondary to safety,” he says. “If it’s curved like a sock or it’s floppy like one of these slippers that looks like a stuffed animal, it doesn’t really protect your feet.”
Similarly, if your skin gets into trouble after two years of taking Covid Precautions, the solution is not to stop masking or washing your hands, emphasizes Dr. Sarika Ramachandran, an associate professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. Rather, he said, these fights mean you’re at risk regardless of the problem of deep skin dryness – and moisturizing your face and hands more often will probably solve both problems.
And if you’re something like me, swallow your pride and ask your doctor about your own personal situation – even if you don’t think anything is wrong. My fatigue was a slow burn: until I talked to my doctor, I didn’t fully understand how much my daily stamina had decreased.
When he gave me 50,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D3 per week – a relatively large amount – a huge amount – he frowned at me over his mask. “You’ll be back to your normal, bouncy nature in no time,” he said sternly.
I laughed, because I don’t usually feel numb or less energized. But in the morning after I took that first ridiculous overdose pill, I immediately felt the difference. It was, exaggerated, like night and day.
I felt like myself again.
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