How COVID-19 Infection Can Trigger Heart Muscle Damage?

COVID-19 symptoms turn serious and cause pneumonia, which deteriorates to ARDS or acute respiratory distress syndrome in several cases. Now, doctors have diagnosed that several coronavirus infected patients are limited to suffering from pulmonary issues. The other organs which can possibly get affected due to coronavirus are kidneys, vascular tree, skin, central nervous system, and heart.

Cardiac issues are not a prominent symptom of coronavirus but are possible. Therefore, patients admitted for coronavirus infection treatment undergo heart muscle screening. Often cardiologist is involved in the care team.

Heart involvement is subtle in many cases, while in some coronavirus patients the complications become fatal. Heart muscle injury causes are hard to identify, so the treatment is supportive instead of specific to coronavirus.

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The occurrence of heart disease from coronavirus

As coronavirus is new, early studies discovered that among hospitalized sick COVID-19 positive patients 8% to 12% were diagnosed with a cardiac muscle injury. Patients suffering from a mild form of coronavirus symptoms did not get diagnosed for heart disease.

Symptoms and diagnosis 

Heart muscle injury and pulmonary symptoms overlap and so there is confusion. The heart injury symptoms are –

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Palpitations
  • Weakness
  • Pressure or pain in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

Distinguishing cardiac disease symptoms from severe lung issue symptom is coronavirus positive patient is a challenge for doctors. Therefore, they don’t depend on symptoms alone to identify cardiac issues.

Hospitalized COVID-19 infected patients are screened via a blood test, ECG, and X-ray. If heart issue is diagnosed then echocardiogram is conducted to determine the nature of cardiac involvement with coronavirus infection. In seriously ill COVID-1 patients with a heart muscle injury, heart catheterization is avoided.

Causes & risk factors

People with pre-existing medical conditions develop heart muscle injury, during their COVID-19 sickness. It inclines them towards cardiac disease. Medical conditions can be obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.

Causes cannot be identified but several potential mechanisms can trigger heart injury.

  • Myocarditis means inflammation of heart muscles
  • Stress cardiomyopathy [broken heart syndrome] occurs due to extreme physical stress
  • Severe hypoxia means lack of oxygen due to overwhelmed lung disease, which can cause heart damage
  • Pre-existing coronary artery plaque can rupture due to coronavirus produced inflammation that can cause a heart attack
  • Small coronary arteries get damaged due to inflammation
  • Cytokine storm interferes with the heart’s pumping ability

Cardiac diseases that complicate coronavirus recovery

Heart failure

Heart failure is a great threat for COVID-19 patients with severely damaged cardiac muscles. There have been significant death cases due to heart failure in the majority of COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China without any prior heart issue history. This indicates that their heart disease was caused due to coronavirus infection.

Heart attack

It is a known fact that illnesses causing pneumonia are connected with high heart attack risks. In two ways COID-19 can cause a heart attack.

  1. Cardiac stress increases because of low oxygen levels in the blood [hypoxia] due to extreme pulmonary illness. Compromised blood supply can cause cardiac muscle injury.
  2. Vascular inflammation increases, which ruptures coronary artery plaque that causes cardiac muscle death.