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Phoenix cardiologist says she's treated 500 COVID long hauler patients 2 years into pandemic

Some people who recover from COVID-19 have lingering health problems even months later.

PHOENIX — What happens when COVID-19 symptoms just won’t go away? Some people who recover have lingering health problems even months later.  

One Phoenix cardiologist runs one of the nation's few clinics that specializes in treating long haulers. CEO of Arizona Heart 360 and cardiologist, Dr. Sarika Desai, said a lot of long hauler symptoms are heart-related. 

"A lot of folks have underlying autoimmune diseases or have a history with mono or other viruses, and maybe particularly during the time of the infection can develop a really out-of-whack autonomic response so typically if they stand for long periods of time their heart rate gets elevated, if they try to walk up a flight of steps they're out of breath, they have fatigue," Dr. Desai explained.

There are symptoms outside of a rapid heart rate as well. 

"Other symptoms can include chronic diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain, really head-to-toe symptoms that deal with our autonomic response can be affected," she said.

Dr. Desai said she's treated more than 500 long hauler patients so far from all over the country.

"Arizona Heart 360 has been at the forefront in identifying and treating these patients," she continued. "We’ve been trying to help our fellow doctors and nurse patients particularly who were on the front lines taking care of patients who have now unfortunately developed a rapid heart rate and severe fatigue where they can't get out of bed. These are active folks in the health care field who were mountain biking, hiking, running, jogging, and they just can't live their life anymore so we help them get back on their feet."

She said every case is different, and therefore every treatment plan is different. Treatments typically include a combination of medicine and lifestyle changes.

"This virus has been interesting in that sometimes patients recover within 3 months and then low and behold within 3-6 months they display some odd symptoms like this," she explained. "So of course we don’t know how long it lasts, or how these episodes can function entirely but certainly we can try to keep them at bay."

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