Researchers have identified a new long-haul COVID-19 symptom that's silent yet deadly.
Kidney disease is twice as likely to develop in COVID-19 survivors, according to the findings published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
A team of researchers tracked nearly 90,000 people treated for COVID-19 at VA hospitals and compared this data with nearly 2 million people who have never been infected with COVID-19.
Survivors were more likely to have an acute kidney injury, a decline in kidney function, and end-stage kidney disease, which is irreversible. Those can also lead to other issues.
“It has downstream ramifications. It's, you know, when people have kidney disease, they subsequently develop higher risk of having heart attacks, strokes and also different ailments and certainly have a higher risk of early death,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, Chief of Research and Development at the VA St. Louis Health Care System.
The lead researcher says even people who recover from COVID-19 at home can run into this.
The worst part is kidney disease is silent and painless, and by the time some people get a diagnosis, 80 to 90% of their kidney function could already be gone.
Dr. Al-Aly recommends everyone who was infected with COVID-19 get their kidneys screened to avoid this costly and life-threatening long-haul symptom.
“The blood work to detect kidney disease is really the simplest blood work that is, that it can actually detect, you know, or can estimate, you know, creatinine which would...which would give you a measure of the kidney function. And that's very, very cheap. It’s available everywhere. And dealing with the end-stage kidney disease, that cost at least $70,000 to $80,000 per year and that's even if patients actually lucky enough to really survive,” said Dr. Al-Aly.
The doctor plans to keep studying long-haul COVID-19 symptoms. He’s calling for our health care systems to prepare now for COVID-19 survivors that could end up hospitalized down the road with things like kidney disease.