Covid can cause GANGRENE as the virus causes the body to attack itself

COVID-19 can cause gangrene as the virus forces the body to attack itself, experts have revealed.

Researchers say the body’s immune system is responsible for the "long-term and bizarre" symptoms among severe Covid patients.

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Most people who catch the virus will have symptoms such as a new persistent cough, a loss of taste and smell (anosmia) and a high temperature.

If you have any of these symptoms then you should get a test and isolate.

A third of Covid patients have no symptoms at all but many who are struck down with the virus display symptoms such as achy joints and muscle soreness.

Others, who suffer with severe issues can experience rheumatoid arthritis flares and autoimmune myositis, commonly referred to as Covid toes.

Until now, doctors have struggled to determine what causes these issues, but experts at Northwestern University in the United States have used radiological images to identify the culprit – our own immune system.

Writing in the journal Skeletal Radiology, study author Dr Swati Deshmukh said: "We've realised that the Covid virus can trigger the body to attack itself in different ways, which may lead to rheumatological issues that require lifelong management."


The experts collected data from patients at Northwestern Memorial Hospital between May 2020 and December 2020.

Some of the patients, who experienced long lasting symptoms, requiring medical treatment, received an MRI, CT scan or ultrasound scans.

It was from these scans that the researchers determined the source of their symptoms and Dr Deshmukh said that many patients with Covid-related musculoskeletal disorders recover, but for some individuals, their symptoms become serious.

He added: “These are deeply concerning to the patient or impact their quality of life, which leads them to seek medical attention and imaging.

"That imaging allows us to see if Covid-related muscle and joint pain, for example, are not just body aches similar to what we see from the flu, but something more insidious."

The researchers found that the scans revealed inflammations, damaged nerves and blood clots, caused by the body's immune system in response to the virus, the researchers found. Dr Deshmukh said: "We might see swelling and inflammatory changes of the tissues, hematomas or gangrene.

WHAT IS GANGRENE?

The NHS states that gangrene is a serious condition where a loss of blood supply causes body tissue to die.

While it can affect any part of the body it is most common in the toes, feet, hands and fingers.

It can occur as the result of an infection, injury or long-term conditions that affects blood circulation.

Anyone can get gangrene but some groups are more at risk than others.

People who are diabetic, those who have Raynaud's, people with atherosclerosis – where the arteries become clogged or those suffering with peripheral arterial disease – where fatty deposits restrict blood supply to the leg muscles – are all more prone to gangrene.

What are the symptoms?

  • redness and swelling in the affected area
  • either a loss of sensation or severe pain in the affected area
  • sores or blisters in the affected area that bleed or produce a foul-smelling pus

"In some patients, the nerves are injured and in others, the problem is impaired blood flow."

For many patients who presented at the hospital, the doctors said they were unable to pinpoint the cause as they hadn’t known what to look for.

Dr Deshmukh said: "Some doctors request imaging for patients with Covid toes, for example, but there wasn't any literature on imaging of foot and soft tissue complications of Covid.

"How do you find something if you're unsure of what to look for? So in our paper, we discuss the various types of musculoskeletal abnormalities that radiologists should look for and provide imaging examples."

Now the experts say that MRI and CT scans could help doctors point patients in the right direction when it comes to treatment.

Dr Deshmukh added: "For example, if a patient has persistent shoulder pain that started after contracting Covid, their primary care provider might order an MRI or ultrasound.

"If a radiologist knows Covid can trigger inflammatory arthritis and imaging shows joint inflammation, then they can send a patient to a rheumatologist for evaluation.

"In some cases, radiologists may even suggest a Covid diagnosis based on musculoskeletal imaging in patients who previously didn't know they contracted the virus", Dr Deshmukh said.

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