According to new research, those who are hospitalized with COVID-19, even if they have minor symptoms, may suffer long-term renal impairment.

The results of the study, which covered more than 1.7 million Veterans Affairs patients in the United States, add to increasing concerns about COVID’s long-term effects, particularly among those who are sick enough to need hospitalization.

Kidney Damage, Another Side Effect Of ‘Long COVID,’ According To A New Study

The researchers found that months after their initial infection, COVID survivors were at a greater risk of having a range of kidney issues, ranging from reduced kidney function to advanced renal failure.

Kidney Damage, Another Side Effect Of 'Long COVID,' According To A New Study

Long-term renal damage was more common in those who had been severely ill and needed intensive care unit (ICU) treatment. Patients who had acute renal impairment while receiving COVID had higher risks than COVID patients, did not seem to have any kidney problems throughout their hospitalization.

However, Dr. F. Perry Wilson, a renal specialist who was not involved in the study, cautioned that those individuals were not entirely free of risk.

COVID patients had a two to five times greater chance of having some kind of renal impairment or disease than VA patients who were not diagnosed with COVID. According to Wilson, there is a lot of disagreement over whether COVID, in particular, or being sick in the hospital in general, causes renal problems.

It’s unclear how their kidney function would compare to that of those brought to the hospital with the influenza virus, for example. According to the study’s results, even VA patients who were sick at home with COVID were at a higher risk of developing kidney problems.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology on September 1 and are based on medical data from more than 1.7 million Veterans Affairs (VA) patients. Between March 2020 and March 2021, 89,216 people were diagnosed with COVID, and 30 days later, they were still alive.

The researchers looked at the chances of people developing various types of kidney problems in the months after the 30-day mark. The glomerular filtration rate (GFR) of COVID patients’ kidneys was much lower than that of non-COVID patients, which is a measure of how well the organs filter waste from the circulation.

According to the results of the study, slightly more than 5% of COVID patients had a GFR reduction of 30% or more. Furthermore, their risk was 25% higher than the general population when compared to the total VA patient group. According to Wilson, since individuals lose around 1% of their renal function each year, a 30% drop in GFR is the equivalent of losing 30 years of kidney function in a single lifetime.

The researchers also looked at acute kidney injury, which happens when the kidneys’ capacity to function is suddenly lost. It may cause symptoms such as limb swelling, exhaustion, and breathing problems, but it can also go undiagnosed for long periods of time. Acute renal impairment was almost twice as common in COVID patients as it was in the general population, although the risk varied depending on the severity of the initial COVID infection.