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Does COVID-19 Affect Organs Other than Lungs?

  • June 29, 2020

The threat posed by COVID-19 continues with active cases rising! Several medical reports prompt questions regarding the nature of the disease. Is COVID-19 confined to being a respiratory disease or does it also affect other organs? Let’s find out.

COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease. The coronavirus that finds entry into the body from the infected cough or sneeze droplets, move into the airways. It may advance deeper into the lungs causing inflammation, followed by pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

COVID-19, however, can also affect other organs. How the virus invades the body could be categorized as being direct or collateral.

Direct Attack:

Viral particles recognize receptors on the body cells called ‘ACE2’ (angiotensin-converting enzyme2). ACE2 receptors are found on cells of airways and organs including heart muscle, kidneys, blood vessels, the liver, and the central nervous system. If the viruses are not destroyed in the airways, they march into these organs. This is one of the reasons for a vast array of symptoms and kidney damage observed in many patients, sometimes even requiring dialysis.

Collateral Damage:

  • Infection in the lungs leads to a fluid build-up. This causes lesser oxygen to reach vital organs via blood. Hence, they slowly stop functioning.
  • Severe damage to the lungs may lead to a trigger in body chemicals, known as ‘cytokines.’ This ‘cytokine storm’ causes more injury to the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain.
  • Dangerous blood clots may develop in the arteries causing a seizure or stroke.

More than 8 in 10 cases, though, have mild symptoms and recover completely. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk for a serious illness. Timing and judicious use of drugs are likely to be key in treatment strategies.

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Disclaimer: Don’t follow any suggestions in this article without consulting a qualified doctor


  1. ‘Coronavirus: What Happens When You Get Infected?’ WebMD. Available at:
  2. ‘Question and Answers on Coronaviruses (COVID-19).’ World Health Organization (WHO). Available at:
  3. ‘The Great Invader: How COVID-19 Attacks Every Organ.’ Medscape. Available at: