Chronic Medical Conditions & COVID-19
Why you must stay vigilant of chronic medical conditions
The shift of focus to Covid-19 has placed chronic diseases on the back seat. Many who are suffering from chronic ailments are not getting the full care and attention they need because of the disruption of medical services, the closure of clinics and centres, and their reluctance to visit healthcare institutions for fear of exposure to the virus. While it’s wise to avoid taking unnecessary risks, there are instances when you will require urgent medical attention. Chronic illnesses weaken the immune system over time, increasing susceptibility of contracting the virus. Their lowered immunity also makes them more vulnerable to complications of Covid-19 like respiratory failure, pneumonia, heart attacks and blood clots.
People with chronic medical conditions face a much higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19 than healthy people. Unlike a wound or an infection that can be cured with a course of antibiotics, they require long-term attention. Chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, and ischemic heart disease usually encompass around 60 percent of mortality and 46 percent of the total disease burden worldwide. The numbers have been rising for years, and are bound to increase in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recognise the Red Flags
Red flags are warning signs that your condition is taking a turn for the worse and that you require urgent medical care. Check these out:
Diabetes: Frequent hypoglycemic attacks indicate low blood sugar levels and come in the form of sweating and dizzy spells. Getting up more frequently at night to pass urine, having wounds that are slow to heal, and frequently registering high blood sugar readings on the finger-prick test on the glucometer at home are signs that your diabetes is poorly controlled.
Heart disease: Chest pains with sweating that do not pass with time, increased shortness of breath while walking short distances, awakening at night feeling breathless are signs that your condition is worsening.
Hypertension: Severe headache, blurred vision, chest pains and difficulty breathing.
Pay attention to mental health
People on medication for disorders like depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia, should continue with their regular medication to avoid a relapse. Worries about health and finances and the disruption of normal routine during this crisis period have increased incidences of depression and anxiety. If you are feeling anxious, unworthy, and are entertaining thoughts of self-harm, please seek urgent medical care.
Although pregnancy is not an illness, a pregnant woman’s immune system is in a weakened state because it has adapted to carry the fetus to term. That places pregnant women in the high-risk groups of Covid-19. In addition, the unique complications of pregnancy, like gestational hypertension and gestational diabetes mellitus, may have serious consequences on the mother and the fetus if neglected. Therefore, regular follow ups are a must for pregnant women during this period.
Adapting to the new norm
It is very likely that Covid-19 will stay with us for a while. So, rather than waiting for it to disappear, why not take steps to get your life back on track. Ideally, you should adapt to the situation to protect yourself and the community while moving forward with life.
Make use of modern technology like telemedicine consultations that breach the gap between healthcare providers and patients in need of essential medical care. Even if you do not suffer from a chronic medical condition, you may have a loved one living with a chronic illness. Your care and attention towards their health, getting to know their medication, being alert to the red flags, and ensuring regular follow ups, will have a huge positive impact on their lives.
By Dr. Ruvaiz Haniffa MBBS, DFM, PgDip, MSc, MD, FCGP, MRCGP, Consultant Family Physician, Healthy Life Clinic.
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