Stomach pain, loss of appetite, itchiness, or cramps? It might be coronavirus. New research shows gastrointestinal issues in COVID-19 patients studied, some with deadly consequences.
Coronavirus has several symptoms, including typical cough, fatigue, and high fever. Now bowel issues might be a sign of a COVID-19 case and are being recommended to be added to a list of official symptoms that grows almost daily.
In a pandemic that’s killing thousands, keeping cities completely shutdown and spreading fast; pain in the bowels and stomach were the “most common indications” for cat scans in a study of 400 patients in the hospital with COVID-19. The new study in the journal Radiology found 17% of people they studied had bowel issues as a symptom of the virus.
Bowel pain can be deadly. Signs in some patients were alarming and even indicated organ death.
Over half of patients with COVID-19 that got ultrasounds showed signs of cholestasis or blockage of bile moving from the liver. Symptoms include intense itching, dark urine, and light-colored bowel movements. Loss of appetite is another symptom, even yellowing of the skin or eyes.
Some patients with more serious cases had distended bowels and irreversible damage to the intestines. These symptoms of infection mean the virus ravaged the immune system in those major organs. Other symptoms showed organ shutdown in the bowels of some patients.
“We found bowel abnormalities on imaging in patients with COVID-19, more commonly in sicker patients who went to the ICU. Some findings were typical of bowel ischemia, or dying bowel, and in those who had surgery, we saw small vessel clots beside areas of dead bowel. Patients in the ICU can have bowel ischemia for other reasons, but we know COVID-19 can lead to clotting and small vessel injury, so bowel might also be affected by this,” researchers said.
Diarrhea is now a common symptom associated with coronavirus.
“On CT, the fluid-filled colon was seen frequently, often considered to indicate diarrhea,” said the study. Whether it was a sign of the virus itself, or just a sign of the body trying to fight it off with a weakened immune system, the symptom was very common in the patients with COVID-19.
Before there will be a vaccine, researchers are racing to figure out how the coronavirus is affecting each body it infects and how the stomach and gut are being hurt. Though this research is brand-new, it might show how COVID-19 hurts more than the lungs, as the gut is the center of many bodily functions.
“As testing capacity and case numbers have increased worldwide, gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite have been increasingly recognized,” said researchers. “Although lung injury is most common, liver injury of uncertain etiology has been observed in patients with COVID-19, with increased frequency in severe cases.”
Keep an eye on your stomach pain or symptoms, and call a doctor if you think you might have coronavirus.