How does COVID-19 affect the lungs?
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, infects the cells along the airways. It invades the cells in part by attaching to a specific cell receptor, called ACE-2, found on each cell. The virus uses ACE-2 as a doorway into the cell. The virus then takes over the cell’s ability to make copies of itself, and instead produces more copies of the virus to infect other cells.
What are symptoms of COVID-19 affecting the lungs?
Some people may feel short of breath. People with chronic heart, lung, and blood diseases may be at risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, including pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, and acute respiratory failure. Patients with severe problems breathing due to COVID-19 may require oxygen therapy, a ventilator, or other airway support.
What health conditions may put me at higher risk for experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms?
People with chronic lung conditions have an increased risk for severe COVID-19 and pneumonia. These include:
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Pulmonary hypertension
Some chronic heart and blood conditions, diabetes, and obesity may also impact how COVID-19 affects the lungs. Check CDC’s page on higher risk groups for more information on existing medical conditions and COVID-19.
What is NHLBI doing to support research on how COVID-19 affects the lungs?
NHLBI-funded research aims to understand and address risk factors for the disease, develop prevention and treatment strategies, and find ways to speed up and improve recovery.
- How Breathing Activates the Lung’s Defenses Against COVID-19
- Smoking associated with increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes
- Study identifies immune pathways activated in severe COVID-19 infection
- Lung cell prototypes enhance COVID-19 research
- Arterial wall cells offer insight into coronavirus’ rampage from head to toe
- Researchers create COPD registry for COVID-19
- Researchers discover culprit in deadline COVID-19 lung inflammation
- Dilated blood vessels in the lung provides possible explanation for low oxygen levels in severe COVID-19 cases
- Researchers map SARS-CoV-2 in the respiratory tract
- Sticky, net-like substance may cause life-threatening clotting in lungs of COVID-19 patients
- COVID-19 damages lung blood vessels
What can I do to keep myself and others safe?
Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from COVID-19. Wearing a mask indoors, washing your hands often, and staying at least 6 feet from other people can also help protect you and prevent possibly spreading the virus to others. The CDC provides up-to-date information on how to protect yourself and others.
In addition, consider:
Be sure to check these additional COVID-19 information sources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: