A top physician warned on Monday that autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes and celiac may be aggravated this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Professor Tufan Tükek, who heads the Faculty of Medicine at Istanbul University, says the prevalence of such diseases was inevitable in the year following the pandemic. “Viruses serve as a mechanism that pull the trigger for autoimmune diseases,” Tükek said.
Autoimmune diseases, which also include thyroid issues, are the result of the body attacking its own tissues. The coronavirus causes the immune system to start producing “attacking” antibodies.
On the other hand, the coronavirus’s lingering symptoms, seen in recovered patients, also remain a threat for those already suffering from autoimmune diseases. Studies show that the symptoms further impact blood sugar levels and aggravate its management by causing fatigue and affecting memory retention.
Istanbul University was the first in the country to set up an observation center for recovered coronavirus patients, a few months after the virus made its foray into the country in March 2020. So far, nearly 4,000 patients have been monitored. Tükek told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Monday that "long COVID-19" symptoms were mostly diarrhea in the early days of the pandemic, but they were now seeing forgetfulness and hair loss among recovered patients, after a second wave of the pandemic. In this post-COVID-19 era, Tükek said they also increasingly see blood clots.
Dr. Huzeyfe Arıcı, a doctor at the observation center, said that for some patients lingering COVID-19 symptoms can continue for up to eight weeks. “We have patients suffering from back pain that long, something that cannot be cured by painkillers. We also see an increasing number of cases with memory lapses,” he underlined.
Zekavet Altay, 62, one of the first coronavirus patients in Turkey, is among those being monitored at the center. She was hospitalized in March 21, 2020, and recovered in 18 days, but she still suffers from back pain. “I was diagnosed with the virus when there were only eight people that had died of the disease in Turkey. It has been almost one year, but I still suffer symptoms. I cannot climb up a flight of stairs without breathing problems. I feel tired even when I stay home and don’t do much, and I cannot breathe,” she said.