Living with long Covid: Smell loss, hypertension, eye sensitivity – ‘This is not a friendly virus’

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Thousands of people worldwide are suffering from the lingering effects of Covid-19 – from severe fatigue and memory loss to coping with a loss of smell and taste. Health24 spoke to a number of long haulers. This is Annelize’s story.

Annelize, 46

Contracted Covid-19 in June 2021.

I don’t know how I got Covid, but my infection started with the normal cold-like symptoms: headache, a runny nose, and a sore throat. After I tested positive for Covid, my symptoms worsened to that of a flu-like illness where I had a fever and body aches. My eyesight became bad too and I couldn’t see anything on TV. My eyes became extremely painful and dry.  

I was lucky not to be admitted to hospital, but my infection was not fun and games. I was in bed for two weeks and I couldn’t get up. I slept most of the time and after the two weeks had passed, I started feeling well again – except for my eyes.

In 2020, I visited the optometrist for an eye test and got reading glasses. However, after my infection, I had to return because my sight had worsened. I got a new pair of glasses, which I’m now wearing semi-permanently for reading and watching TV. My eyes are now very sensitive to light, specifically to computer screens, cellphones, and tablets. When reading anything, I have to close my left eye, otherwise my eyes get tired and I end up with a headache.  

long covid
Image: Supplied

Loss of smell, memory problems, high blood pressure

I also cannot smell coffee when passing coffee shops or when brewing my own coffee. I will only pick up on the smell from the tin. Still, it doesn't smell as good as it used to. My sense of smell was so much stronger before my infection. I’ve got this espresso coffee that I drink, and normally when you open a new container, you experience that nice smell, but I don’t get it anymore. 

My memory has also been affected and I still can’t remember certain things. I can’t remember when my husband and daughter tell me things. I did experience brain fog, but that’s fortunately not bothering me that much anymore. 

I also had a strange feeling for a long time, which I can only describe it as withdrawal symptoms – except I hadn’t stopped taking any medication. Thankfully, that feeling has now subsided.

But out of all these long Covid symptoms I’ve had, the worst symptom, apart from the bad sight, is getting high blood pressure.

I'm now taking blood pressure medication. I don’t like to talk about it, but it’s part of life. I’m obese, and doctors have said that this could be a risk factor for high blood pressure, specifically after Covid. 

There was, however, one good thing that came out of this. Prior to Covid, I was under a lot of stress at my job. I resigned in January and we moved from Gauteng to KwaZulu-Natal where we now have more fresh air. It is a great improvement.

Scientists and doctors need to look at people individually because not everyone has the same symptoms. I really hope my symptoms will disappear soon, and I wish everyone suffering from Covid and long Covid a speedy and complete recovery – because this is not a friendly virus. 

*Many people suffer from the long-term effects of Covid-19, even many months later. If you are one of those people, and wish to share your experience, let us know, and your story can be told in our Living with long Covid series. You are not alone. E-mail your stories to zakiyah.ebrahim@24.com

READ | Living with long Covid: Losing your sense of smell can be dangerous - 'I worry about my unborn baby'

READ | Covid-19 infection linked to increased risk of new diabetes diagnosis - new study

READ | Long Covid: How 3 SA insurance companies are handling sickness, disability claims and life cover

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