How Covid-19 Attacks the Lungs
In a recent New York Times video a detailed animation shows how coronavirus attacks the lungs. In the video, chest scans from a generally healthy 59-year-old man with coronavirus are analyzed. Just days before the scans were taken this patient was asymptomatic. The scans show a green shaded area where the virus damaged tissue in the lungs, ultimately killing the patient.
For more than 80% of people who get COVID-19, many will experience mild or even no symptoms of the virus. However, for others it is deadly. Scientists explain that there is a strong correlation between people who died and those who developed a condition known as ARDS, or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. ARDS occurs when fluid collects in the tiny air sacs (alveolus) in the lungs, preventing oxygen from reaching organs. ARDS typically occurs from direct illness or injury to the lungs, such as pneumonia, inhaling harmful substances, near drowning, or trauma from car accidents. ARDS is often fatal and the risk of death increases with age and severity of illness.
When we breathe in air, oxygen goes down our windpipe and fills the lungs. The barrier between the alveolus (the small air sacs at the end of the lungs) and red blood cells is extremely thin allowing oxygen to easily travel through it. Once inside, the bloodstream takes oxygen back into the heart and from there to the rest of the body. This is the key to understanding why COVID-19 is killing people, scientists explain.
How does COVID-19 lead to ARDS?
While experts are still in the early stages of understanding how COVID-19 leads to ARDS, it is thought that the virus causes a malfunction of the pulmonary vessels within the lungs. When that happens the exchange of oxygen within the body is impaired. Once patients progress beyond seven to ten days of the onset of symptoms, that is when ARDS seems to be developing. The entire wall of the air sacs (alveolus) gets coated in a layer of thick fluid. As the fluid layer becomes thicker, oxygen can no longer pass into the bloodstream and organs begin to suffocate. With COVID-19, once ARDS develops it progresses rapidly compared to it developing from other causes, and patient health deteriorates rapidly.
We hope this information on how COVID-19 attacks the lungs is helpful. If you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus such as fever, cough shortness of breath, or any other symptom defined by the CDC consult with your doctor.
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