Stem Cell Therapy for Post-COVID Syndrome
What Causes Post-COVID Syndrome?
Post-COVID syndrome, commonly known as long COVID or long-haul COVID, refers to lingering symptoms that last beyond three months after a SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Each symptom lasts for at least 2 months, regardless of the severity of the initial infection. The symptoms tend to negatively affect parts of everyday life and seem to have no other explanation for their presence. Symptoms may linger from the initial infection or they may be completely new. They can also vary in severity over time and be followed by periods of decline after experiencing improvement 1–4.Common symptoms of post-COVID syndrome include and are not limited to: 4,5 6–8
- Difficulty thinking
- Shortness of breath
- Hair loss
- Sleep problems
- Heart problems and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Depression and anxiety
- Joint and muscle pain
- Brain fog
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Ringing in the ears
- Digestive conditions and gut symptoms
- Reduced libido
Researchers are still trying to understand the exact mechanisms that cause post-COVID syndrome. Many experts believe that persistent symptoms may be due to one, if not a mixture, of the following mechanisms:
- An abnormal immune reaction to the initial infection or to viruses or virus parts hiding in several organs after the initial infection (occult viral persistence)
- Long-lasting inflammation or infection-triggered autoimmunity 9
- Unusual activation of blood clotting pathways
- Organ damage, especially to the nervous system 2
- Damaged mitochondria, the subpart of your cells that produce energy 10
- Damages to the autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious bodily actions that keep you alive, such as breathing, digestion, and blood pressure.
Your doctor may diagnose post-COVID syndrome based on history, signs and symptoms, and physical exam.
Stem Cell Therapy for Post Covid Syndrome FAQ
The Scientific Rationale Behind Stem Cell Therapy for Post-COVID Syndrome
As of February 2023, there is no approved drug for post-COVID syndrome. Many drugs are undergoing clinical trials to judge their safety and efficacy for long COVID11-15
Although several vaccines are available, COVID-19 has become part of our everyday life. Many scientists believe that more variants of SARS-CoV-2 will continue to emerge, as it mutates due to various selective pressures.
It’s unclear whether the vaccines prevent or mitigate post-COVID syndrome 16. Perhaps, due to the lack of effective and FDA-approved therapies for long COVID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “holistic support for the patient throughout their long COVID illness course can be beneficial.”
While the CDC and FDA do not specifically mention stem cell therapy, it remains a promising treatment as it does for other chronic degenerative conditions that involve the nervous system16
How Much Does Stem Cell Therapy Cost for Post-COVID Syndrome?
The cost depends on the specific treatment you will be undergoing and how many treatment sessions you need. Book a consultation with us today to get your personalized stem cell therapy treatment plan.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
Typically, you will need 1 – 2 treatments, depending on the plan of care established between you and your doctor. All treatment appointments are in person, but the initial consultation and follow-up can be done by phone.
Some people do come back for additional treatments over the course of months or years. This largely depends on the stage of your disease, how well you respond to the treatment, and what your treatment goals are.
Your Patient Journey with Stem Cell Therapy for Post-COVID Syndrome
Step 1: Application and initial consultation
Our questionnaire and initial consultation help us determine whether you’re a good candidate for stem cell therapy, along with the best treatment plans for you. Our patient advocate will walk you through the process, pricing, and payment plans.
Step 2: Physical exam
You’ll come in for a physical exam in preparation for the treatment and also to assess your current symptoms and health status.
Step 3: Stem cell collection
Your procedure will begin where we harvest cells from your bone marrow or fat tissues. We will then isolate the stem cells from these tissues in the clinic before administering your first treatment
Step 4: Stem cell culture
If applicable, we will send your stem cells to the lab to expand them in numbers.
Step 5: Future treatments
Your future stem cell treatments will be done using your cultured stem cells.
Step 6: Follow-up appointments
Our team will keep in contact with you to monitor your treatment progress and support you through your recovery.
Advantages of Stem Cell Therapy vs Standard Treatments and Other Alternative Treatments for Post-COVID Syndrome
Current Standard-of-Care Treatments for Post-COVID Syndrome and Their Shortfalls
As of January 2023, there is no cure or validated effective treatment for long COVID 37.The CDC emphasizes that doctors should:
Provide holistic, patient-centered approaches to improve patient quality of life and function
Create partnerships with specialists for physical and mental health care (such as physical therapists and psychologists)
Educate patients about lifestyle factors, such as nutrition, sleep, and stress reduction
Use symptom management approaches, which may include FDA-approved medications, vitamin or electrolyte supplements for headaches or anxiety, breathing exercises to improve symptoms of difficulty breathing, etc. 38
This means that any potential therapies that patients and physicians decide to pursue, no matter how much benefit a patient experiences, are considered experimental. Since there is no known cure, it’s common to focus on managing symptoms and hope that patients’ symptoms slowly improve with time. Many of the current medications for managing symptoms of long COVID come with significant side effects. Doctors may then decide to prescribe another medication to help deal with these side effects. The path of symptom suppression, through multiple medications, may negatively affect the quality of life of patients just as badly as the disease the medications were initially prescribed to help with.
Below are some of the standard-of-care treatments that may be given to patients suffering from long COVID.
Occupational therapy teaches patients how to adapt and perform tasks common to everyday life. Patients and occupational therapists come up with ways to change your movements so you can get your work done, stay active, and enjoy recreational activities 39. While many people find tremendous benefits from occupational therapy, it does not treat the cause of their symptoms.
Stem cell therapy may treat the mechanisms responsible for causing long COVID and provide additional benefits to individuals undergoing occupational therapy. Stem cells may reduce the need for occupational therapy entirely if symptoms disappear as they did for many patients with severe COVID-19.
Corticosteroids are used to treat conditions that involve inflammation due to their very powerful anti-inflammatory effects. They decrease the body’s immune response, which is why they are used when the immune system is overreacting. Corticosteroids have improved symptoms and organ function in patients with severe COVID-19. As with any therapy, there are side effects that should be considered by the patient and doctor. Some of the concerning side effects of corticosteroids include: 40
- High blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Changes in mood, including depression
- Increased risk of infection
- Increased appetite and high blood sugar, which may result in weight gain and other health risks
- Bone loss (osteoporosis) 41
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, are used to relieve pain, lower fever, and reduce inflammation 42
Long COVID patients experiencing persistent, severe discomfort (such as chest tightness) may be prescribed ibuprofen. Below are a few alarming risks that patients should be aware of when using NSAIDs:
- Changes in vision
- Shortness of breath
- Liver or kidney damage
- Stomach or intestinal bleeding
NSAIDs can increase the risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke 42,43.
Cough suppressants are used to relieve coughing through various ways. The medication Tessalon Perles (benzonatate) numbs the throat and lungs, making you less likely to cough. Whereas, Robitussin (dextromethorphan) changes signals in the brain that trigger the cough reflex. Some serious side effects of these medications are:
- Burning eye pain
- Severe drowsiness or dizziness
- Confusion or hallucinations
- Seizures 44,45
Post-COVID patients with sleep disruptions may seek out various sleep aids, from sedative herbs to melatonin and prescription drugs such as Ambien. These can be habit-forming and may increase drowsiness and accident risk in the morning.
Benzodiazepines, also called “benzos”, act on specific receptors in the brain and have a calming effect by making the brain less sensitive to stimulation. Doctors may prescribe them for patients with sleep problems. Below are a few worrying side effects patients should be informed about:
- Vision problems
- Potentially addictive medication
- Forgetfulness (amnesia)
- Hallucinations or risk-taking behavior 46,47
Medications for anxiety, depression, and PTSD
Many post-COVID patients develop mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, possibly because the virus causes brain inflammation. Also, being on ventilators or receiving intensive care may also lead to PTSD 48.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are used to treat patients with symptoms consistent with anxiety, depression, or PTSD. These medications increase serotonin or other neurotransmitters in the brain. These are chemicals that carry messages between nerve cells. Serotonin is thought to have a good influence on mood, emotion and sleep 49. A few concerning side effects of these medications are:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Increased risk of bleeding
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors 50
These medications can start to take effect in 1 – 2 weeks but may take up to 8 weeks to deliver their full benefits. Many patients also have to try multiple medications for weeks at a time to find the right mix.
Because adult stem cells may reduce brain inflammation, stem cell therapy may also help with mood disorders from post-COVID. Some stem cell therapy clinical trials are ongoing in treatment-resistant depression patients, though not post-COVID 51.
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