SHREVEPORT, La. -- As the COVID-19 virus continues to plague the world, medical professionals and scientists continue to learn more about it and how it affects the human body.

According to Sharon Dunn, the dean of LSU Health Shreveport’s School of Allied Health Professionals and the president of the American Physical Therapy Association, chronic fatigue is one of the aftereffects of COVID-19 on some patients.

“Something they’re talking about now are the long haulers, those people who might have had a limited impact while they had COVID,” she said. “But they have this persistent level of fatigue well beyond a few weeks of being positive with COVID.”

Dunn said physical therapy can help get these patients back to normal, albeit gradually.

“So, the things that physical therapists can help with are graded exercise programs, to their tolerance, to hopefully get them back to a level of performance so that they don’t feel chronic fatigue,” she explained.

While the novel coronavirus was once thought to primarily impact the lungs, Dunn says new research has shown that it is more a vascular disease than a lung disease.

“The microvascular around the lungs was being impacted so that the air exchange was bad from the lung to the vasculature,” she said. “So, we know that it has a pretty significant impact on small vessels. That’s why some of the clinical trials related to nitrous oxide, and hyper oxygenation are helpful for the acute cases of COVID.”

Dunn further explained that because the vasculature and microvasculature – or blood vessels – are impacted, the results can vary among patients, depending on what their pre-COVID health status is.

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