GI, Kidney and Liver Problems from COVID-19
COVID-19 infections cause gastrointestinal (GI), kidney, and liver problems and complications during and after recovery. COVID-19 is a new viral infection. So we don’t know why this happens. However, there are a few theories that offer some explanation. The first is that COVID-19 affects your immune system and increases your susceptibility to other infections and injuries. The next is that an enzyme found in your lungs, gut, central nervous system, and kidneys is involved in COVID-19. Another is that medical treatment given to treat COVID-19 infections injuries other organs, such as your liver. No matter the cause, we know that one or more of these GI, kidney, or liver problems result during and after a COVID-19 illness.
Respiratory symptoms, like coughing and shortness of breath, are common symptoms of COVID-19. But, some people experience gastrointestinal (GI) problems with a COVID-19 illness, like diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, anorexia, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Having GI problems doesn’t mean that your COVID-19 infection is more severe or that your outcome is worse.
Your liver is responsible for filtering the blood from your digestive tract throughout the body. It also helps to remove toxic chemicals from the body. Liver problems happen when your liver doesn’t function as it should. There is a causal relationship between COVID-19 and liver involvement. That is to say, a higher degree of involvement is associated with more severe cases of COVID-19. Having poor liver function increases your risk of having COVID-19 complications. It also increases your length of hospitalization. Liver problems can result from certain infections, immune issues, genetic predispositions, and other health conditions like cancer.
Symptoms of Liver Problems
- Yellowing of your eyes or skin
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in urine and stool colors
A liver injury is a common liver problem survivors of COVID-19 experience. Often, liver injuries happen when you sustain some trauma to your liver. We know that COVID-19 worsens liver function in people with pre-existing liver conditions. But it also does this in people without a liver illness.
Another one of the liver problems associated with a COVID-19 illness is liver failure. When your liver fails, it doesn’t work well enough to do its job. Liver failure is the result of many conditions, like liver injury, drug interactions, and alcoholism. Untreated liver failure leads to health complications and poor outcomes.
Your kidneys remove toxins from your blood and waste from your body. Kidney problems make it hard for your kidneys to function properly. Having a kidney disease increases your risk of having a severe COVID-19 and complications from your illness. And COVID-19 survivors experience kidney problems during and after their illness. Kidney diseases can lead to complications, the need for transplants, and dialysis.
Another kidney problem COVID-19 survivors experience is kidney injury. Kidney injuries often have one of three causes. The first is damage from the medications you use. Another is a blockage that prevents urine (waste) from leaving your kidneys. Also, blood loss to the kidneys can cause kidney injuries. We’re not sure why COVID-19 patients and survivors experience kidney injuries. But, we believe that there are many different causes, like direct infection of the kidneys or increased blood clotting.