Doctor Alejandro Comellas. (U-I photo)

A study from the University of Iowa Post-COVID Clinic research team shows damage to the small airways in the lungs is a potential long-lasting effect of COVID-19.

Doctor Alejandro Comellas says their C-T scans in the study found no difference based on the severity of a person’s COVID-19 case. “That was the surprising part — that we found the same degree of involvement in the lungs independently of how severe was the acute illness,” he says.

Comellas says they are trying to figure out why there’s no difference. He says they don’t know, but speculate the virus infects and causes similar damage to the airway and the severity of the disease is dependent on how a person’s immune system responds. Commas isn’t sure if the lung damage can be treated

“That is the next question we are trying to assess,” according to Comellas. “We are now analyzing and studying what is happening to patients who have this finding and whether many months later some of them are recovering or are they staying the same or progressing.” He says they are trying some treatments such as inhalers that they use with asthma or COPD.

The symptoms can be shortness of breath, a cough, scatter wheezing, sometimes chest tightness, but very nonspecific. Comellas says the lack of specific symptoms can let the problem go unnoticed.
He says the regular type of testing could turn out to be normal unless you do the specific test where the patient exhales during the C-T scan to get a lung image.

Comellas says they are trying to find out if this will be a long-term problem following COVID.
“We do not know whether the findings are due to lung inflammation in the airway — or whether these are damaged airways like a scar,” he says. He says this may be something you want to have checked out.
Comellas says if you continue to have some of these symptoms two to three months after having COVID, you should see a doctor if you have any type of damage.

Comellas says they hope to have more information as they continue to study COVID patients.