The lungs of people who have tested positive for coronavirus are often densely scarred—even if they didn’t have any symptoms.
That’s the disturbing warning from Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall. She is a trauma surgeon at Texas Tech University.[i]
“Post-COVID lungs look worse than any type of terrible smokers’ lungs we’ve ever seen,” she said.[ii]
All patients who’ve had COVID-19 symptoms show a severe chest X-ray, Dr. Bankhead-Kendall said. And even among those who were asymptomatic, 70% to 80% show the same severe scarring.
The Scary X-rays of Coronavirus Patients
Normal lungs | Smoker’s lungs | Post-COVID lungs
Image: CBS News
Patients may say they feel perfectly fine after testing positive for coronavirus—but their lungs still are scarred, she said.
“Everybody’s so worried about the mortality thing, and that’s terrible,” Dr. Bankhead-Kendall said. “But man, for all the survivors and the people who have tested positive, this is going to be a problem.”
Some patients with lung scarring will never return to their pre-COVID lung function, said Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos. He is a lung disease expert at Johns Hopkins Medicine.[iii]
They may suffer shortness of breath. And they may tire more easily during exercise.
Others will recover. But not overnight. “Recovery from lung damage takes time,” Dr. Galiatsatos said.[iv]
“The tissue heals. But it can take three months to a year or more for a person’s lung function to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.”
The bottom line?
To preserve your lung function, you should do all you can to avoid getting infected. You should not take coronavirus lightly, even if you are not elderly or have a condition that makes you at high risk, such as diabetes, obesity, or heart disease.
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