Severe damage to the lungs is one of COVID-19’s most harrowing effects, making breathing hard or impossible for those who’re severely affected.

But evidence is mounting that COVID-19 also damages the heart—damage either caused by the virus itself, from inflammation triggered by the immune system’s response to the virus, or from increased clotting in heart vessels.

There is now evidence that heart damage may persist even after the patient recovers and, in some cases, that damage may be long lasting. Experts just don’t know how often the heart damage will occur at this point or whether it might affect people with only mild symptoms.

In a prospectus review published in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, Kirk U. Knowlton, MD, who is director of cardiovascular research at the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute, examined more than 100 published studies related to COVID-19 and its effects on the heart.

In his review of published research, Dr. Knowlton found that many patients also suffer significant cardiovascular damage that might also persist after they have otherwise recovered. He also found multiple reports of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, that can damage the heart and affect the heart’s ability to pump blood.

Dr. Knowlton points out that there is considerable evidence that COVID-19 infection can damage the heart in hospitalized patients via several mechanisms, including myocarditis. However, less is known about the effects of the virus on the heart in patients who do not require hospitalization or in those who do not develop significant lung disease.

Read more about Dr. Knowlton’s findings here.