The autonomic nervous system runs your body without you noticing. If you’re aware of your autonomic nervous system, there’s something wrong with it. This is called dysautonomia, and it covers many symptoms from sudden faintness to nausea to sexual dysfunction.
You’re likely more familiar with the term inflammation. Most inflammation is caused by infection and clears up when the infection goes away. But there are several conditions where inflammation continues despite the absence of infection. These are called inflammatory diseases and they’re some of modern medicine’s central puzzles. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are classic examples.
Now it looks as if long COVID, at least in some people, maybe another example of inflammatory disease. the very latest and one of the most puzzling.
The list of chemicals involved in inflammation is quite endless. While writing this, someone is writing about another ten of them, all newly discovered. Meanwhile, in the hurly-burly of daily practice, healthcare providers tend to simplify their search to just one, called C-reactive protein (CRP). This crude biomarker is over 100 years old. If the CRP level is low, there can’t be inflammation; if the CRP is high, you need to look for a cause.
CRP is usually “normal” for most people. However, all sorts of other chemicals associated with inflammation can be raised, which seems to be the case with long COVID as it goes through its lulls and flare-ups. This is exciting because it may offer some clues as to what’s going on, what sort of drugs might stop it, and how to monitor progress with blood tests.
Richard is a retired family doctor who lives in the UK. Until 2020 he was Professor of the Shared Understanding of Medicine at the University of Birmingham UK. For 20 years he produced weekly summaries of research articles from the main medical journals. Here we are giving you his personal comments on Long Covid research as it appears in the medical press. They are meant as pointers rather than complete summaries. Readers wanting more detail are advised to use the links provided to the original article. Richard welcomes feedback from readers but regrets that he cannot provide medical advice.